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THE Ionosphere 

Fifty Years of Satellite Communication 

Edited by 

Andrew J. Butrica 

Beyond the 

Fifty Years of Satellite 

October 1995 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Arthur C. 
Clarke's famous article in Wireless World proposing the use 
of satellites placed in geosynchronous orbit for worldwide 
communications relay. The article proved prophetic, for it 
heralded the modern era of telecommunications. 
Beginning in the early 1960s, several series of satellites 
were launched into Earth's orbit; collectively they trans- 
formed the latter twentieth century, creating a global 
village of instantaneous communications. 

Previously, the ionosphere had defined the limits of radio 
communication; today, by going beyond the ionosphere, 
broadband telecommunication has entered a new age. This 
book describes the first attempts to go beyond the ionos- 
phere, including both the earliest uses of the Moon as a 
passive, natural relay satellite and Project Echo, the mas- 
sive inflated satellite off which Earth stations bounced 
radio signals, as well as contemporary communications via 
active-repeater artificial moons in orbit about the Earth. It 
analyzes both American and foreign satellite communica- 
tions, the histories of several satellite communications 
companies, the roles of government agencies, and the con- 
tribution of research laboratories. 

The book is a collection of papers originally presented dur- 
ing an international symposium held in Washington, D.C., 
at the time of the fiftieth anniversary of Clarke's 1945 arti- 
cle. Contributions from historians and other scholars from 
throughout the world present a stimulating analysis of one 
of the most important global technologies at work today — 
and how it originated and evolved. 

Andrew J. Butrica has edited a comprehensive and illumi- 
nating collection of articles on this important subject. It is 
vital reading for anyone seeking to imderstand the history 
of global telecommunications in the twentieth century. 

Andrew J. Butrica received his Ph.D. in the history of scir 
ence and technology at Iowa State University. He is a 
research historian in Franklin Park, New Jersey, specializ- 
ing in the history of science. In 1990 Praeger Publishers 
issued his Out of Thin Air: A History of Air Products and 
Chemicals, Inc., 1940-1990; in 1996 his book To See the 
Unseen: A History of Planetary Radar Astronomy was pub- 
Ushed in the NASA History Series. 

About the Cover: "Endeavour and Intelsat, " acrylic by Jim Alford. A 
nine-day mission (7-16 May 1992) accomplished the capture cfthe 
Intelsat ^7 satellite and the subsequent mating of the satellite to a 
booster and its eirentual redeployment. In this painting, the floating 
architectural components symbolize the union of the Space Shuttle 
Endeavour with the communications satellite Intelsat. Courtesy of 
the NASA Art Progmm, no. 92-HC716. 

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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

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Fifty Years of Satellite Communication 



Fifty Years of Satellite Communication 

Andrew J. Butrica, Editor 

The NASA History Series 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration 
u m^T4 M NASA History Office 

Washington, D.C. 20546 1997 

Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication Data 

Beyond the Ionosphere: Fifty Years of Satellite Communication/ Andrew J. Butrica, 

p. cm.— (NASA historical series) (NASA SP: 4217) 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 289) and index. 

1. Artificial satellites in telecommunication. I. Butrica, Andrew J. II. Series. III. Series: 
NASA SP; 4217. 
TK5I04.B48 1997 

62I.382'38— dc21 97-10856 


For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office 

Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328 

ISBN 0-16-049054-5 

To the pioneering dreamers and doers of satellite communications: 

Arthur C. Clarke, who envisioned the geosynchronous orbit and a global 

satellite television network; John Robinson Pierce, for transforming the visions of 

his science fiction into a science fact, Echo; Col. John H. DeWitt, Jr., and 

Zoltdn Bay, for achieving the first successful space communications links; 

and James H. Trexler, who turned the Moon into humanity's first 

communications satellite. 


Acknowledgments xi 

Introduction xiii 

Part I: Passive Ori^ns 

Chapter 1 Daniel R. Headrick, "Radio Versus Cable: International 3 

Telecommunications Before Satellites" 

Chapter 2 David K. van Keuren, "Moon in Their Eyes: Moon Communication .... 9 
Relay at the Naval Research Laboratory, 1951-1962" 

Chapter 3 Jon Agar, "Moon Relay Experiments at Jodrell Bank" 19 

Part U: Creating the Global, Regional, and National Systems 

The United States and Canada 

Chapter 4 Donald C. Elder, "Something of Value: Echo and the Beginnings 33 

of Satellite Communications" 

Chapter 5 Craig B. Waff, "Project Echo, Goldstone, and Holmdel: Satellite 41 

Communications as Viewed From the Ground Station" 

Chapter 6 Daniel R. Glover, "NASA Experimental Communications Satellites 51 


Chapter 7 David N. Spires and Rick W. Sturdevant, "From Advent to Milstar: .... 65 
The U.S. Air Force and the Challenges of Military Satellite 

Chapter 8 William W. Ward and Franklin W. Floyd, 'Thirty Years of 79 

Space Communications Research and Development at 
Lincoln Laboratory" 

Chapter 9 David J. Whalen, "Billion Dollar Technology: A Short Historical 95 

Overview of the Origins of Communications Satellite Technology, 



Chapter 10 Arturo Russo, "Launching the European Telecommunications 131 

Satellite Program" 

Chapter 11 Lorenza Sebesta, "U.S.-European Relations and the Decision to 137 

Build Ariane, the European Launch Vehicle" 

Chapter 12 Nigel Wright, "The Formulation of British and European Policy 157 

Toward an International Satellite Telecommunications System: 
The Role of the British Foreign Office" 

Chapter 13 Jonathan F. Galloway, "Originating Communications Satellite 171 

Systems: The Interactions of Technological Change, Domestic 
Politics, and Foreign Policy" 

Part III: The Unfolding of the World System 

Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Chapter 14 Bert C. Blevis, "The Pursuit of Equality: The Role of the Ionosphere . 195 
and Satellite Communications in Canadian Development" 

Chapter 15 Zhu Yilin, "The Long March to Space: Satellite Communications 205 

in China" 

Chapter 16 Raman Srinivasan, "No Free Launch: Designing the Indian 215 

National Satellite" 

Chapter 17 Brian Shoesmith, "Footprints to the Future, Shadows of the Past: .... 227 
Toward a History of Communications Satellites in Asia" 

Chapter 18 Jose Altshuler, "From Shortwave and Scatter to Satellite: Cuba's 243 

International Communications" 

Chapter 19 Roberto Diaz-Martin, "The Recent History of Satellite 251 

Communications in Cuba" 


Chapter 20 Joseph N. Pelton, "Project SHARE and the Development of Global . . 257 
Satellite Communications" 

Chapter 21 Edward J. Martin, 'The Evolution of Mobile Satellite Communications . . 265 

Chapter 22 Adam L. Gruen, "Net Gain: The Use of Satellites at MCI" 283 


Appendix A For Further Reading 289 

Appendix B Timeline of Selected Events in the Development of Satellite 293 


About the Authors 301 

Glossary of Acronyms 307 

Index 311 

The NASA History Series 319 



This volume originated several years ago out of my growing interest in communications 
satellites and their beginnings — an interest that had been sparked by my research into the 
history of radar astronomy. The two, I discovered, had much in common. I then met a pair 
of George Washington University graduate students who were preparing, or thinking of 
preparing, doctoral theses on the history of satellite communications. We decided to do 
something — inidally undefined, though perhaps a conference session — on the subject 
sometime in the near future. 

Like the proverbial "best laid plans of mice and men," this plan went astray, but in a good 
direction — namely, an entire conference on the development of satellite communica- 
tions. That conference would not have taken place, however, were it not for the generos- 
ity of Roger D. Launius, NASA Chief Historian, and the NASA History Office. Dr. Launius 
made available the NASA Headquarters auditorium and the History Office staff, as well as 
a small stipend to cover limited expenses. Without his continuing support, the confer- 
ence — and this volume — ^would not have come into existence. It was, moreover, a pleasure 
to work with Dr. Launius and with the entire History Office staff. In particular, the diligent 
service of NadineJ. Andreassen was above and beyond the call of duty. 

I also want to thank those who served as session moderators during the conference: Sylvia 
K. Kraemer, senior policy analyst in the Office of Policy and Plans at the National 
Aeronautics and Space Administration, and former NASA Chief Historian; John Krige, 
formerly of the European Space Agency History Project, European University Institute, 
Florence, and currentiy director. Center for Research in the History of Science and 
Technology, Cite des Sciences et de I'lndustrie, Paris; Pamela E. Mack, Professor of 
History, Clemson University; and Joseph N. Tatarewicz, Professor of History, University of 
Maryland, Baltimore County. Thanks, too, go to John V. Evans, Vice President and 
Director of Comsat Laboratories, and Michael Onufry for arranging the tour of Comsat 
Labs. Finally, appreciation is deserved by those who helped in the editing and composi- 
tion of this volume: Janie Penn, Michael Crnkovic, Patricia Lutkenhouse Talbert, 
Jonathan L. Friedman, and Stanley Artis. 

Andrew J. Butrica, Editor 


The year 1995 marked a number of anniversaries in the development of satellite 

• The thirty-fifth anniversary of the launch of Echo 1, the first passive communications 

• The thirtieth anniversary of the April 1965 launch of Early Bird (Intelsat I), Comsat's 
first satellite, which effectively began global satellite communications 

• The twenty-fifth anniversary of the launch of NATOSAT, the first satellite stationed 
over the Adantic Ocean to carry military traffic between the United States and its 
NATO allies 

• Most notably, the fiftieth anniversary of Arthur C. Clarke's article published in Wireless 
World, in which he proposed the use of geosynchronously orbiting satellites for com- 
munications relay sites' 

Satellite communications are at the very heart of the notion of a "global village" and 
constitute a continually growing, multibillion-dollar, nearly ubiquitous civil and military 
enterprise deserving recognition. Much fanfare accompanied the first satellite television 
broadcasts. Yet, as the technology has grown increasingly pervasive, satellites have became 
an almost invisible part of the cultural landscape. Simultaneously, satellite communication 
has become a tremendous international commercial success, currently worth around 
$15 billion dollars per year; it is on the verge of expanding spectacularly in the near 
future, perhaps to $30 billion per year by the end of the decade. Despite the expanding 
network of fiber optic cables, approximately 60 percent of all overseas communications 
pass via satellites. More than 200 countries and territories rely on nearly 200 satellites for 
defense, direct broadcast, navigational, and mobile communications, not to mention data 
collection and faxing, via domestic, regional, and global links. 

Despite the commercial success and ubiquity of satellite communications, far too little 
attention has been paid to its development. For the most part, scholars have focused on 
politics and policy studies of the period roughly from 1958 to the mid-1970s (customarily 
centering their discussions on the passage of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962 
and Intelsat negotiations) , neglecting economic and technological questions and slight- 
ing the earlier work of the 1940s and 1950s. Recently, however, some scholars have 
attempted to address these overlooked areas of research. I saw a need to bring the results 
of their research to light, while in the process stimulating others to take up research in 
satellite communications history. Roger Launius, NASA's Chief Historian, and the NASA 
History Office staff graciously offered to help organize a symposium on the development 
of satellite communications tided "Beyond the Ionosphere: The Development of Satellite 
Communications." Through their efforts and hard work, the symposium took place at 
NASA Headquarters, 17-18 October 1995, and a tour of Comsat's research laboratories 
followed, thanks to John V. Evans, Vice President and Director of Comsat Laboratories. In 
addition, George Washington University hosted a one-day celebration of government- 
industry cooperation prior to the NASA History Office symposium. 

1 . Arthur C. Clarke, "Extra-Terrestrial Relays: Can Rocket Stations Give World-Wide Radio Coverage?," 
Wireless World 51 (October 1945): 305-08. Serial issues are identified only when each issue is paginated sepa- 
rately; otherwise, only the volume number and year of publication are provided. 


That symposium served as a forum for pre- 
senting not only the research results of schol- 
ars, but also the experiences of practitioners. 
Indeed, one of the motives for organizing the 
symposium was to create a vehicle that would 
facilitate fruitful interaction among scholars 
and practitioners. A few papers not presented 
during the symposium have been included in 
this book to provide additional temporal, 
geographical, and thematic coverage of the 
symposium's vast subject — the development 
of satellite communications. While complete 
coverage of such a subject is impossible at pre- 
sent, these "proceedings" attempt to present a 
broad, but systematic survey of the evolution 
of satellite communications. It is hoped that 
this diffusion of scholarly research and practi- 
cal experience will both fill gaps in the litera- 
ture and provide a framework for future 
studies. Finally, this work will have achieved its 
goal if it stimulates others to take up research 
in satellite communications history. 

Figure 1 

Arthur C. Clarke during a insit to the Goddard Space Flight 
Center in 1 976. His article on "Extra-Terrestrial Relays, " 
published in 1945, proposed a series of geostationary satel- 
lites. Today, the geostationary orbit is known also as the 
Clarke oHnt. (Courtesy of NASA, photo no. 76007273) 

The contributions to this volume demonstrate, if nothing else, the dramatic temporal and 
geographic breadth and thematic richness of satellite communications history. The nar- 
rative, which has not a single strand, but many, reaches back nearly a half century to the 
first attempts to communicate via natural and artificial satellites; it extends from the 
United States and its northern and southern neighbors to the countries of Western and 
Eastern Europe, to India, Australia, and Asia, and to the rest of the globe. This book, then, 
is organized along temporal and geographical lines. 

The Three Stages of Satellite Communications Development 

The temporal ordering of the development of satellite communications is somewhat 
problematic. As the readings make clear, satellite communications developed along 
several evolutionary lines that variously intersected and diverged. In addition, there is the 
difficulty of periodizing something whose existence was only dreamed 50 years ago. This 
work posits three stages of satellite communications development as a suggested frame- 
work for future research and discussion, but also to provide the diverse contributions of 
this volume with a rational organization. 

The first stage of development, extending from the 1940s into the early 1960s, was distin- 
guished by experiments with passive artificial and natural satellites. Long before the 
launch of Sputnik, investigators in the United States and Europe attempted to establish 
long-distance communications using the Moon as a passive relay satellite, while others 
sought to create an artificial ionosphere (Project Needles) or to use meteor ionization 
trails (meteor burst communications) . Military and business funding and the communi- 
cations needs of both shaped these experiments. 

Preceding these experiments was, of course, several decades of experience with radio 
communications, dating back to the pioneering work of Guglielmo Marconi and others in 
Europe and the United States. To achieve transmission distances beyond the horizon, 
long-distance radio systems ricocheted signals off an ionized portion of the atmosphere 
called the ionosphere. The ionosphere retained this communications role until the 
advent of satellite communications, initially in the guise of lunar relay experiments. Thus, 
the development of satellite communications can be thought of as a prolonged attempt to 
achieve long-distance communications by going "beyond the ionosphere." 

The second stage of satellite communications development began in 1958, not with 
Sputnik, but with the launch of the first communications satellite (SCORE) and the first 
teletype relay by satellite (Courier IB). Project Echo followed, launched in 1960, then 
came Telstar (equipped with an active repeater) and Relay (the first satellite to transmit 
television worldwide) in 1962, Syncom 2 (the first geosynchronous communications satel- 
lite) in 1963, the first operational commercial communications satellite (Intelsat I, alias 
"Early Bird") in 1965, and in 1966 the first operational military communications satellite 
(IDSCS). By 1966, then, the era of satellite communications was well on its way. 

The placement of these satellites in orbit by the United States alone signaled that coun- 
try's dominance of the field and precipitated a series of highly political negotiations on 
both sides of the Atlantic Ocean that eventually led to the creation in 1964 of Intelsat 
(International Telecommunications Satellite organization), an international framework 
for the growth of satellite communications. Comsat, a corporation created by congres- 
sional passage of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962, became the key organiza- 
tional instrument through which the United States influenced the making of decisions 
and the letting of contracts within Intelsat. This second stage of development, then, saw 
the creation of satellite communications institutions and the establishment of manage- 
ment at the international level, while a single country, the United States, dominated satel- 
lite communications technology and services. 

Although that domination continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s, more and more 
countries acquired access to communications satellites, especially in Europe, and chal- 
lenged the U.S. monopoly. The nature of satellite communications has undergone deep 
changes since the late 1970s to the present, the period of the third stage of satellite com- 
munications development. During this period, the U.S. lead in satellite communications 
technologies and services established during the 1960s and 1970s waned, while Europe 
and Japan invested heavily in satellite communications research and development in the 
hopes of harvesting economic benefits and began to pose a major technological and 
economic challenge to the United States. Although the United States retained a leading 
position in the marketplace, it lost ground in the technologies and systems that held the 
key to future communications markets. 

More than ever before, the geopolitics of satellite communications came into its own dur- 
ing the third stage of development, as the small club of countries with satellite access grew 
into a global public enterprise, embracing first the countries of North America and 
Western Europe, then outward into Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. As 
satellite geographic coverage increased, the types of services offered multiplied. Fixed (as 
opposed to mobile) satellite communications services reached maturity during the 1960s 
and 1970s, while mobile and broadcast services underwent explosive growth during the 
third stage of satellite communications development. Growth in fixed satellite services 
slowed to an annual rate of about 10 percent, while broadcast and mobile communica- 
tions services thrived (growing more than 20 percent annually). The International 


Figure 2 
The telephone shown here will provide voice, fax, and 
data sermces via the Iridium satellite communications 
system, as well as through terrestrial cellular telephone 
networks (availability and compatibility permitting), 
be^nningin 1998. (Courtesy of John Windolph) 

Maritime Satellite Organization (Inmarsat) 
introduced maritime service; it then 
branched out into aircraft and mobile land 
services. By the mid-1990s, the fastest grow- 
ing field was personal communications ser- 
vices via satellite using hand-held transceivers 
similar to those used in cellular radio. 

Put in geopolitical terms, though, what char- 
acterized the third stage of satellite communi- 
cations development was the creation of a 
true international satellite system — a system 
that was international not only because satel- 
lite coverage was global, but because of the 
increasing number of countries with satellite 
access. Indeed, the global satellite system was 
built country by country. The nation-state was 
a fundamental engine of growth, serving zis 
both the initiator and chief consumer of satel- 
lite communications services in a given 
geographical and political territory. This cir- 
cumstance was to be expected; in most coun- 
tries of the world, the state traditionally was 
the sole provider and major user of commu- 
nications systems. Those systems embraced 
everything from postal services (including 
financial services) and telecommunications 
(telegraphy, telephony, and telex) to roads, 
bridges, and waterways (communications 
understood in the broadest sense of the word) . 

Because the global satellite system was built largely at the state level, to understand the 
character of the third stage of satellite communications development, we must consider 
each country (each telecommunications system provider) as a separate case. The results 
would mirror the complexity and heterogeneity of factors that influenced the develop- 
ment of satellite communications across the planet. Political and cultural factors likely 
would dominate these country-focused case studies, as the contributions to this volume 
affirm, although certainly technology and economics would play roles as well. 

The Organization of This Book 

The three overlapping stages of satellite communications development outlined above 
provide the three-part framework for the organization of the papers contained in this 
book. Part I, "Passive Origins," treats the first stage of satellite communications develop- 
ment, extending from the 1940s into the early 1960s, when passive artificial and natural 
satellites funded by the military and private enterprise established the field. Part II, 
"Creating the Global, Regional, and National Systems," addresses events that constituted 
the second stage of development. Early in this stage, which stretched from the 1960s into 
the 1970s, satellite systems began to make their appearance in the United States, while 
domestic and international efforts sought to bring order to this new, but chaotic, field in 
the form of Comsat and Intelsat. 


While the first two parts of this book involve the United States and Western Europe, Part 
III, The Unfolding of the World System," explores the development of satellite commu- 
nications in the remainder of the world, with a strong emphasis on Asia. Thus, while the 
positing of three stages of satellite communications development serves as a temporal 
framework, the course taken in Part III is less determined by temporal limits than by geo- 
graphical expansion. The political and cultural landscape of each country takes the lead 
in shaping that country's accession to satellite communications capability. 

Politics and culture utilize satellite communications within the national space in one of 
two ways: to create internal political and cultural cohesion or to create cohesion among 
nation-states. Countries occupying large land masses, such as the United States, Canada, 
the Soviet Union, China, or the Indian subcontinent, inaugurated domestic satellite 
services to foster national cohesion, and so did the smaller states of Asia, but for different 
reasons. On the other hand, Western Europe initiated satellite programs in the name of 
regional integration, and the Soviet Union created Intersputnik, its own clone of Intelsat, 
to interconnect its client states (including Cuba). Moreover, to bolster colonial ties in the 
postcolonial era, Britain and France hoped to use satellites to communicate with their for- 
mer colonies. 

These are but some examples of the geopolitical motivations of states in acquiring satel- 
lite communications capability. However motivated the states were, though, the question 
of how the satellite communications capability was utilized must be addressed as well. 
Therefore, Part III includes a section on satellite applications in education and medicine, 
in mobile communications and navigation, and in corporate business strategies. 

The three temporal st^es of satellite communications development, and the focus in Part 
III on geographical expansion linked to factors of politics, culture, and national space, rep- 
resent only a tentative framework for studying the development of satellite communications. 
Indeed, many themes not alluded to in this analytical schema merit study. Several of these 
themes will become apparent after a brief review of the papers contained in this volume. 

Passive Origins 

To understand the circumstances leading to the emergence of global satellite communica- 
tions, we first must examine the technological, economic, and political world of cable teleg- 
raphy and telephony. That is the raison d'etre for Daniel R. Headrick's study of the rivalry 
between radio and cable. Until the advent of wireless radio a century ago, all 
electrical communications traveled by cable. Cable and radio cohabited peacefully for a cou- 
ple of decades until the arrival of shortwave radio, which was faster and cheaper than con- 
ventional long-wave radio. Headrick sees a parallel between the 1920s' rivalry of shortwave 
and cable and today's rivalry between satellites and fiber optic cable. Also from the era dis- 
cussed by Headrick came the international carriers of record, such as American Telephone 
and Telegraph (AT&T) , International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) , and Western Union 
International, which later played a key role in shaping U.S. satellite communications. 

Although natural (meteors) and artificial (Project Needles) objects served as early passive 
relay satellites, the era of space communications actually began with the efforts on both 
sides of the Atlantic Ocean to use the Moon as a passive communications satellite. The 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT's) Lincoln Laboratory carried out Project 
Needles, formerly known as Project West Ford, on behalf of the Department of Defense 

(DoD). This project involved launching nearly 500 million hair-like copper wires into 
orbit in 1963, thereby forming a belt of dipole antennas. Lincoln Laboratory then used 
this artificial ionosphere to send messages between Camp Parks, California, and Westford, 
Massachusetts. British radio astronomers, including Sir Martin Ryle and Sir Bernard 
Lovell, as well as optical astronomers, objected fervently to Project Needles, and the 
Council of the Royal Astronomical Society formally protested to the U.S. President's 
Science Advisor."^ 

Meteor burst communications outlived Project West Ford and has endured to the present. 
The purpose of meteor burst communications is to obtain secure, point-to-point radio 
connections. It originated in the United States in radio propagation work at Stanford 
University carried out initially during the early 1950s. Von R. Eshleman, an electrical 
engineering graduate student, laid out in his dissertation a general theory of detecting 
meteor ionization trails and its application in actual experiments. After graduation, he 
developed this method of communicating in collaboration with his Stanford colleagues 
and with funding from the Air Force.' The Stanford research had nontrivial 
consequences. Eshleman's dissertation has continued to provide the theoretical founda- 
tion of modern meteor burst communications — a communications mode that promises to 
function even after a nuclear holocaust has rendered useless all normal wireless 
communications. The pioneering work at Stanford, as well as at the National Bureau of 
Standards and the Air Force's Cambridge Research Laboratories (without leaving out 
Jodrell Bank in Britain), received new attention in the 1980s when the Space Defense 
Initiative ("Star Wars") revitalized interest in using meteor ionization trails for jam-proof 
communications. Nonmilitary applications of meteor burst communications also have 
arisen in recent years. ^ 

Concurrent with the research on meteor burst communications and Project West Ford, 
civilian and military investigators on both sides of the Adantic Ocean attempted to use the 
Moon as a passive communications satellite. These lunar communications efforts 
succeeded. As a result, they constitute the first passive satellite communications link — 
a place in history usually accorded to the Echo balloon experiments. Those efforts are the 
subject of papers by David K. van Keuren and Jon Agar. 

2. Overhage to Ferguson, 26 June 1963, 1/24/AC 134, MIT Archives; Overhage and Radford, "The 
Lincoln Laboratory West Ford Program: An Historical Perspective," Proceedings of the IEEE 52 (1964): 452-54; 
"Project West Ford Releases and Reports," folder, Lincoln Laboratory Library Archives. Much of Volume 52 of the 
Proceedings of the IEEE addresses exclusively Project West Ford. On the antagonism of radio astronomers to Project 
Needles, see Bernard Lovell, Astronmner by Chance (New York: Basic Books, 1990), pp. 331-34; Martin Ryle and 
Bernard Lovell, "Interference to Radio Astronomy from Belts of Orbiting Dipoles (Needles)," Quarterly Journal of 
the Royal Astronomical Society 3 (1962): 100-08; D.E. Blackwell and R. Wilson, "Interference to Optical Astronomy 
from Belts of Orbiting Dipoles (Needles)," ibid., pp. 109-17; Hermann Bondi, 'The West Ford Project," ibid., p. 99. 

3. Von R. Eshleman, interview with Andrew Butrica, 9 May 1994, Stanford University, JPL Archives; Von 
R. Eshleman, 'The Mechanism of Radio Reflections from Meteoric Ionization," Ph.D. diss., Stanford University, 
1952; Von R. Eshleman, The Mechanism of Radio Reflections from Meteoric Ionization, Technical Report No. 49 
(Stanford, CA: Stanford Electronics Research Laboratory, 15 July 1952), pp. ii-iii, 3; Laurence A. Manning, 
"Meteoric Radio Echoes," Transactions of the Institute of Radio En^neers 2 (1954): 82-90; Laurence A. Manning and 
Von R. Eshleman, "Meteors in the Ionosphere," Proceedings of the Institute of Radio En^neers Al (1959): 186-199. 

4. Robert Desourdis, telephone conversation, 22 September 1994; Donald Spector, telephone conver- 
sation, 22 September 1994; Donald L. Schilling, ed.. Meteor Burst Communications: Theory and Practice (New York: 
John Wiley and Sons, 1993); Jacob Z. Schanker, Meteor Burst Communications (Boston: Artech House, 1990). On 
the civilian use of meteor burst communications, see Henry S. Santeford, Meteor Burst Communication System: 
Alaska Winter Field Test Program (Silver Spring, MD: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service, Office of Hydrology, 1976). 

The Moon communications relay had its origins in radar experiments conducted in 1946 
by a team of investigators at the U.S. Army Signal Corps's Evans Signal Laboratory, near 
Belmar, New Jersey, working under the laboratory's director, John H. DeWitt, Jr. They 
successfully detected radar waves transmitted to the Moon on 10 January 1946. As early as 
1940, DeWitt had failed to bounce radio signals off the Moon, to study the Earth's atmos- 
phere, using the transmitter of Nashville's radio station WSM. He wrote in his notebook: 
"It occurred to me that it might be possible to reflect ultrashort waves from the Moon. If 
this could be done it would open up wide possibilities for the study of the upper atmos- 
phere. So far as I know, no one has ever sent waves off the earth and measured their 
return through the entire atmosphere of the earth. ""^ Later, in 1946, a Hungarian physi- 
cist and director of the research laboratory of the United Incandescent Lamps and 
Electric Company (Tungsram), Zoltan Bay, succeeded in bouncing radar waves off the 
Moon. Other experimenters had preceded DeWitt and Bay, but they had failed to detect 
lunar radar echoes.* The tentative, but successful trailblazing efforts of DeWitt and Bay 
opened up new vistas in ionospheric and communications research using radio echoes 
reflected off the Moon. 

Private enterprise showed no lack of interest in developing a lunar communications relay. 
Experiments conducted at ITT's Federal Telecommunications Laboratories, Inc., in New 
York City, shortly after World War II, attempted to use the Moon as a passive relay for radio 
telephone communications between New York and Paris. The lunar relay would allow ITT 
to compete with AT&T, which held a monopoly on transatlantic cable traffic. What the 
Federal Telecommunications Laboratories imagined, however, the Collins Radio 
Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the National Bureau of Standards's Central Radio 
Propagation Laboratory in Sterling, Virginia, accomplished on 8 November 1951, when a 
slowly hand-keyed telegraph message was sent over the Iowa-Virginia circuit several times. 
The message was the same sent by Samuel Morse over the first U.S. public telegraph line: 
"What hath God wrought?"' 

Meanwhile, though, the first use of the Moon as a relay in a communications circuit had 
been achieved only a few days earlier by military researchers at the Naval Research 
Laboratory (NRL) . The efforts of the NRL to use the Moon as a passive communications 
satellite are the subject of David van Keuren's contribution. For the Navy, secure, reliable 
long-distance communications were a tactical necessity, especially during the Cold War of 

5. DeWitt notebook, 21 May 1940, and DeWitt biographical sketch, HL Diana 46 (04), Historical 
Archives, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Ft. Monmouth, NJ. 

6. Among those were Thomas Gold, Von R. Eshleman, and A.C. Bernard Lovell. Gold, a retired 
Cornell University professor of astronomy, claims to have proposed a lunar radar experiment to the British 
Admiralty during World War II; Eshleman, a Stanford University professor of electrical engineering, unsuccess- 
fully attempted a lunar radar experiment aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in 1946, while returning from the war; and 
Lovell proposed a lunar bounce experiment in a paper of May 1946. Thomas Gold, interview with Andrew 
Buu-ica, Ithaca, NY, 14 December 1993; Von R. Eshleman, interview with Butrica, Caltech, 9 May 1994; and 
Bernard Lovell, "Astronomer by Chance," manuscript, February 1988, p. 183, personal papers. Sir Bernard 

7. D.D. Grieg, S. Metzger, and R. Waer, "Considerations of Moon-Relay Communication," Proceedings of 
the IRE 36 (May 1948): 652-63; "Via the Moon: Relay Station to Transoceanic Communication," Nezvstueek 27 (11 
February 1946): 64; Peter G. Sulzer, G. Franklin Montgomery, and Irvin H. Gerks, "A U-H-F Moon Relay," 
Proceedings of the IRE 40 (1952) : 361 . A few years later, three amateur radio operators, "hams" who enjoyed detect- 
ing long-distance transmissions (DXing), succeeded in bouncing 144-megahertz radio waves off the Moon on 23 
and 27 January 1953. E.P.T., "Lunar DX on 144 Mc!," QST37 (1953): 11-12, 116. Their success sparked an ongo- 
ing ham interest in lunar DXing, which continues today in the form of contests to detect lunar radio echoes. 

the 1950s. Moreover, ionospheric storms had shown the vulnerability of radio transmis- 
sions to natural jamming. The Navy's project called Communication Moon Relay (also 
known as "Operation Moon Bounce") sought to exploit the Moon as a high-tech com- 
munications option in the years before the launch of the first artificial satellite. Through 
his discussion of Operation Moon Bounce, moreover, van Keuren shows the close linkages 
between classified and unclassified research and development programs that existed with- 
in U.S. military laboratories during the Cold War. 

Jon Agar takes up the lunar communications relay program undertaken on the other side of 
the Atiantic Ocean by Sir Bernard Lovell and his colleagues at the Nuffield Radio Astronomy 
Laboratories at Jodrell Bank. Unlike the work at the NRL, the Jodrell Bank experiments 
received underwriting from private enterprise — namely, Pye Telecommunications Ltd., a 
British electronics firm based in Cambridge. Thus, this early stage of satellite communica- 
tions development not only wimessed activity on both sides of the Atiantic Ocean, but inter- 
est and funding came from both military and business sources. Agar also points out the role 
of demonstration — that is, public displays of scientific spectacle such as the bouncing of sig- 
nals off the Moon — in funding the construction and operation of the giant Jodrell Bank 
radio telescope, as well as in supporting Jodrell Bank research in general. 

Creating the Global, Regional, and National Systems 

TTie United States and Canada 

In light of the NRL, Jodrell Bank, and other lunar relay tests, as well as the West Ford and 
meteor burst experiments. Project Echo can be understood as a turning point, rather than 
a starting point, in the development of satellite communications. Similar to its predeces- 
sors. Echo was a passive communications relay; however, unlike them, it was an artificial 
satellite. Lunar echo and meteor burst techniques used natural satellites. Although 
Project Needles created an artificial ionosphere, it was not placed in orbit until 1963, 
three years after the launch of the first Echo balloon. As a passive relay, then. Echo con- 
tinued past practice, but as an artificial satellite, it symbolized the future of space com- 
munications. Part II of this volume begins with two papers on this transitional satellite 
communications program. 

In the first paper, Donald C. Elder, drawing on research conducted for a lengthier and 
more detailed study,* reviews the origins of Project Echo. Echo received inheritance from 
the military interest in satellite communications begun with the first lunar passive relay 
experiments. Initial funding for Echo came from DoD's research and development 
agency, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) , as well as NASA's predecessor, 
the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The Pentagon was interested 
in space surveillance, such as taking photographs from space, and doing so involved the 
principle of overflight: who owned the space above each country? 

Elder also argues that Echo originated with a prophetic science fiction article written by 
John Robinson Pierce, the director of research at AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories. 
Although Arthur C. Clarke first published the notion of space communications via geo- 

8. Donald C. Elder, Out From Behind the Eight-Ball: A History of Project Echo, AAS History Series, Vol. 16 
(San Diego: American Astronautical Society, 1995). 


Figure 3 
John Robinson Pierce, the former director of research at AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories. In a piece of science fiction, Pierce 
predicted in 1952 the potential benefits of satellite communications. A few years later, he helped realize the first artificial 
communications satellite, Echo. (Courtesy of NASA) 

synchronous satellites, seven years later Pierce published in 1952 a story in Astounding 
Science Fiction in which he discussed the potential benefits of satellite communications. 
Echo came into existence, though, only after the Eisenhower administration gave its 
approval in 1955 to the launch of a satellite as part of the 1957-1958 International 
Geophysical Year (IGY). Thus, Echo ultimately involved collaboration by AT&T, NASA (as 
NACA's successor) , and the IGY coordinators. Elder also recounts the technical difficul- 
ties encountered in constructing a balloon appropriate for the Echo experiments — 
namely, one that would not fall apart before being placed in orbit. 

Also significant for the future development of satellite communications is that Project 
Echo saw the intertwining of private enterprise and the nation's space agency. The rela- 
tionship between NASA and business was to color the future development of satellite com- 
munications. The association of NASA — through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) — 
and AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories is the substance of Craig B. Waffs contribution. 
Continuing the Echo story, Waff focuses on the problem of target acquisition, which is a 
prerequisite for all satellite communications. Indeed, as the geosynchronous orbit reach- 
es saturation, and as Iridium and other satellite communications systems create a growing 
demand for low and medium orbital slots, the problem of acquiring satellite targets, first 
encountered on Project Echo, takes on new relevance. Recalling the lunar communica- 
tions tests of the 1950s, JPL and Bell personnel conducted a range of tests, including a 
lunar bounce experiment, to prepare for Project Echo. Taking part in Project Echo also 
served JPL's new research direction, for it was a key milestone in the creation of the Deep 
Space Network, NASA's worldwide space communications network. 

That NASA would play a central role in the development of satellite communications was 
determined by its monopoly on civilian launchers. Daniel R. Glover reviews NASA's exper- 
imental communications satellite program from the agency's founding to the present. 

NASA's launcher monopoly assured its place on Project Echo, as well as AT&T's Telstar, a 
system of communications satellites to be placed in polar and equatorial orbits. Telstar, 
similar to Echo, involved NASA and AT&T going forward in tandem in space communi- 
cations. For launch, tracking, and telemetry services on Telstar, AT&T paid NASA $6 mil- 
lion. For its part, AT&T hoped to use Telstar to extend into space its historical monopoly 
on American wire and transatlantic cable traffic. 

After reviewing NASA's roles in Project Relay and Syncom, Glover discusses NASA's gen- 
eration of experimental communication satellites, known as the Applications Technology 
Satellite (ATS) series. NASA's search for ATS series funding highlighted the ongoing rela- 
tionship between the space agency and private enterprise. This time, though, the business 
was not AT&T, but the Communications Satellite Corporation (better known as Comsat) . 
Congress objected to NASA's continuation of Syncom (built by Hughes) out of fear that 
the space agency was developing technology for the benefit of a single private company, 
namely Comsat. As Glover explains, NASA responded by broadening the project's objec- 
tives to include meteorology and other scientific experiments and renaming it the ATS 
series. Years later, in 1973, the ATS series came to a halt, when Congress canceled it as a 
budget reduction measure, so the commercial satellite communications industry, not 
NASA, would have to support its own research and development. When NASA resumed 
its experimental communications satellite program with the launch of the Advanced 
Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS) in September 1993, the space agency made 
it available to industry, universities, and other government agencies to conduct experi- 
ments. ACTS emerged only after a long and tortuous debate carried on throughout the 
1980s by Congress and the White House over whether NASA should develop technology 
for the U.S. satellite communications industry. 

In the background of that debate, as well as throughout the history of satellite communi- 
cations in the United States, was the role of the military. After NASA and private 
enterprise, the military constitutes a third strand in the development of U.S. satellite com- 
munications. As we have seen, DoD supported space communications research and devel- 
opment as early as the 1940s and 1950s. Later, the Pentagon influenced NASA to include 
in its ATS series technology for gravity-gradient stabilization (on ATS-2, ATS-4, and 
ATS-5) and for medium altitude orbits (ATS-2) . These are only two examples drawn from 
a long history of development outlined by David N. Spires and Rick W. Sturdevant in their 
paper. Focusing on Air Force satellite communications from the 1960s to the present, 
these two writers show that the Air Force, as the chief provider of military launch vehicles, 
supporting infrastructure, and communications satellites, confronted a variety of interre- 
lated technical, political, and institutional problems. Although Air Force engineers often 
surpassed their commercial counterparts in the design of communications satellites, 
Spires and Sturdevant point out that the special endurance requirements of military com- 
munications satellites drove their costs upward even as commercial costs dropped. The 
high cost of military communications satellites persuaded Congress to pressure the 
Pentagon to cut costs and to consider using commercial satellite systems. 

Although the military often is portrayed as a unified entity, Spires and Sturdevant demon- 
strate its organizational disunity, at least for the case of satellite communications. Within 
DoD, moreover, the fractured, complicated system of satellite communications manage- 
ment has impeded the integration of military satellite communications planning and 
activities across the three services, as well as the transition of new technology from the 
research and development laboratory to the operational satellite. 

A key military satellite communications research facility was MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, 
which oversaw Project West Ford. By 1963, when Project West Ford was launched, Lincoln 
Laboratory had established a reputation as a major defense research laboratory and as a 
vital center for state-of-the-art electronics and computer research. Heir to MIT's Radiation 
Laboratory, which had been at the heart of U.S. radar research and development during 
World War II, Lincoln Laboratory was underwritten jointly by the three armed services. 
The Air Force provided most of the funding, though. The laboratory designed and 
developed what became known as SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment), a digi- 
tal, integrated computerized North American network of air defense. vSAGE involved a 
diversity of applied research in digital computing and data processing, long-range radar, 
and digital communications. Lincoln Laboratory also worked on the Distant Early 
Warning (DEW) Line, a network of radome-enclosed radars intended to search for incom- 
ing enemy aircraft, and its successor, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) . 

William W. Ward and Franklin W. Floyd, drawing on their personal experiences, describe 
the military satellite communications development work that took place at Lincoln 
Laboratory under their direction — primarily Project Needles and the Lincoln 
Experimental Satellite (LES) series. In particular, they focus on the development and test- 
ing of communications satellite hardware and electronics. Scholarly studies of satellite 
communications have tended to concentrate on politics and policy studies, in contrast to 
the conspicuous emphasis on technology offered by Ward and Floyd. 

Through the Lincoln Laboratory's research and development work described by Ward and 
Floyd, as well as the efforts outlined by Spires and Sturdevant, the military sought to create 
a system of space communications. The military is only one thread of the story of the devel- 
opment of U.S. satellite communications, however. The second thread is the independent, 
though at times intertwining, development of satellite communications by NASA. Yet a 
third thread is woven through this strange narrative fabric: private enterprise. Businesses 
interacted with the military side of satellite communications, as well as with NASA, but as 
seen in the case of lunar relay communications, private enterprise took an active interest 
in and funded tests of space communications technologies as early as the 1950s. 

The importance of private enterprise in the development of satellite communications is 
the core of David J. Whalen's offering. Conventional wisdom, Whalen argues, holds that 
the government developed satellite communications technology because industry was 
either unwilling or unable to face the high costs and high risks of research and develop- 
ment. Before the launch of Echo in 1960, private industry — notably AT&T and ITT — 
invested substantial amounts in satellite communications research and development and 
expected to reap a profit. AT&T's participation in Project Echo was a further expression 
of its commitment to and competence in satellite communications. AT&T — not a 
government laboratory — had made that possible. 

The government curtailed AT&T's involvement in the development of satellite communi- 
cations, according to Whalen, largely out of fear that AT&T would extend its terrestrial 
telecommunications monopoly into space. The Kennedy administration, while not against 
private industry, stood firmly against AT&T enjoying a monopoly of space communications. 
In some ways, this moment marked the beginning of the end of AT&T's monopoly. As 
Whalen so convincingly argues, the problem was not an industry unwilling or unable to face 
the costs and risks of developing satellite communications systems, but the efforts of the gov- 
ernment (including NASA) to restrain AT&T from extending its monopoly into space. 

Figure 4 
The U.S.S. Kingsport carrying the first shipboard satellite communications station into the Pacific in 1964. Previously, this 
satellite station had served in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean for military communications via Syncom. (Courtesy of 


NASA checked the AT&T monopoly by awarding contracts to RCA and Hughes — not 
AT&T — to build Relay and Syncom, respectively. Congress and the White House reaf- 
firmed their belief in private enterprise by establishing a private corporation (Comsat) 
through the Communications Satellite Act signed by President Kennedy in August 1962. 
Nonetheless, the intent behind the creation of Comsat was to ensure that any existing 
telecommunications company could not establish a monopoly on space communications, 
although the new law did grant Comsat a monopoly on satellite communications. 

Comsat's monopoly did not come to an end until the June 1972 decision by the Federal 
Communications Commission (FCC) that opened up domestic satellite communications. 
Subsequently, Western Union launched WESTAR in 1973, and ComSat General launched 
COMSTAR in 1975. The 1980s saw the launching of several hundred transponders for 
domestic uses by ASC (American Satellite Company), FORDSAT (Ford Aerospace), 
GALAXY (Hughes), GSTAR (GTE), SPACENET (GTE Spacenet), SBS (Satellite Business 
Systems) , and Telstar (AT&T) . 

Whalen's contribution also considers Comsat's selection of the ultimate satellite orbit for 
the single global satellite communications system that the firm was entrusted with creat- 
ing. The choice was neither simple nor easy. AT&T and DoD favored the tried-and-true 
medium-altitude satellite, while others, including NASA, favored geosynchronous satel- 
lites. Tentadvely, Comsat selected the geosynchronous Early Bird satellite, launched in 
March 1965, and only decided on the geosynchronous orbit after additional study con- 
tracts and satellite design studies. 

For the most part, however, Whalen's paper sketches the role of private enterprise in U.S. 
satellite communications development. It is a thread of development, as with that of the 
military or NASA, that sometimes intertwines with the other threads of development, but 
often develops on its own. The development of satellite communications thus has not one 
unified past, but rather it reflects the sometimes connected and sometimes separate rela- 
tionships among those three threads. 


These three threads, however, illuminate the development of satellite communications 
only in the United States. Part II, therefore, contains a second section, which addresses 
the development of European satellite communications and the relationship between 
U.S. and European satellite communications. The view of European satellite communica- 
tions presented by these contributions echoes the multifaceted nature of U.S. satellite 
communications development. 

Western Europe necessarily followed a different evolutionary pattern, shaped by each 
country's distinct culture, politics, and economy, as well as by the move toward European 
integration that started after World War II. Western European nations created collective 
organizations to achieve a variety of ends. The Council of Europe, created in 1949 with 
headquarters in Strasbourg, France, provided member states a political organization, 
while the European Coal and Steel Community, created in 1952, stimulated the produc- 
tion of coal and steel by reducing trade barriers. The European Atomic Energy 
Community (known as Euratom) promoted joint exploitation of the peaceful uses of 
atomic energy, and the European Economic Community (known as the Common Market), 
created in 1957, sought to eliminate all economic barriers among member states. Despite 
the move toward European integration, the diversity and passion of European national 
politics cannot be overlooked. 

Although Europe delayed launching its own satellite communications program, some 
European countries participated in U.S. efforts. For example, investigators at France's 
national telecommunications research center, the Centre National d'Etudes des 
Telecommunications, received signals transmitted from AT&T's Holmdel facility that 
bounced off Echo in August I960.'' Symphonic, a bilateral Franco-German communica- 
tions satellite, preceded the 1978 launch of the first European communications satellite, 
the Orbiting Test Satellite. By then, however, Canada and several other countries had 
satellite capacity, too. 

9. Jean P.F. Voge, Telecommunications spatiales et transmissions a grande distance par satellites arti- 
ficiels," L'lndustrie Nationale 13 (1961): 1-16, esp. 11. 

Two key aspects of the development of satellite communications in Europe were the drive 
toward European integration and cooperation with the United States. The nature and 
extent of that cooperation was not at all obvious to all European governments, especially 
the French. Should a united Europe develop its own satellite launchers? Should Europe 
institute its own system of satellite communications? The answers to those questions were 
undeniably and necessarily coupled to the character of cooperation with the United States. 
As the 1960s began, the United States held a monopoly on satellite communications — 
a monopoly that would not ease possibly until the next decade. What AT&T was to U.S. 
communications, the United States was to European — and global — telecommunications. 

A further complication was the creation of a single global satellite communications sys- 
tem, a goal the United States touted. In any unified global system, the United States would 
have a dominant place because of its lead position in the field and its monopoly on launch 
vehicles. In negotiating with the United States over the creation of a global satellite com- 
munications system, unity served European interests well. The countries of Western 
Europe decided to negotiate as a bloc, not individually, as had been the practice in past 
telecommunications negotiations. 

The European side of satellite communications development starts with a paper by Arturo 
Russo on the beginnings of the European effort to launch a communications satellite. 
Referring to research performed for the European Space Agency (ESA) history project 
with colleagues John Krige and Lorenza Sebesta, Russo attempts to answer the question: 
Why did it take such a long time to develop a European communications satellite program? 

He finds two major factors that limited Europe's ability to act. The first was the institu- 
tional framework. Getting the two multinational European space organizations — the 
European Space Research Organization (ESRO) and the European Launcher 
Development Organization (ELDO) — involved in satellite communications implied a 
change in their purpose and programs, which was a difficult task. Strong disagreements 
existed among ELDO member states, and a European satellite communications effort 
required a comprehensive international policy framework in which national economic 
interests and political goals could be satisfied. The second factor was the question of 
users — namely, the state telecommunications administrations. While interested in sup 
porting research and development studies of satellite communications, these potential 
users worried about the economic prospects of a European satellite system. The solution, 
Russo points out, came in the form of two so-called package deals — a pair of sweeping 
agreements that aimed to satisfy national interests and transformed ESRO's mission. 

In none of the studies conducted did the economics of the European satellite communi- 
cations program demonstrate its potential to yield revenues in excess of costs. Russo 
argues that the ultimate justification for the program's approval was a handful of noneco- 
nomic factors, namely: 

(1) the assertion of Europe's political and technological independence from the two super- 
powers, which was a key element particularly of the French government's space policy; 

(2) the recognition of the aerospace sector as strategically important for the development of 
advanced industrial technology; (3) the need to qualify European industry for competitive 
participation in Intelsat procurement contracts; (4) the understanding that the Orbiting 
Test Satellite and European Communication Satellite programs were the heart of an evolu- 
tionary program leading to other application fields, such as aeronautical and maritime 

telecommunications, direct television broadcasting, and Earth observation; (5) the search 
for autonomy of political and cultural expression (as the influential French newspaper Le 
Monde declared in 1967: "The transmission of radio and television programs is one of the 
most supple and diversified m£ans to assure a presence and influence abroad "); and (6) the 
general drive toward European economic and technical integration.^^ 

Moreover, a key part of the European story was the negative role played by the various 
national postal and telecommunications administrations. Working through the European 
Telecommunications Satellite Committee (known by its French acronym GETS), these 
administrations opposed the placement of a communications satellite over Europe, 
although not above the Atlantic Ocean, on economic grounds: the system would not 
nearly pay for itself. ESRO then turned to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), a 
frustrated customer of the national postal and telecommunications administrations; as 
operator of the Eurovision television network, the EBU depended on its network of ter- 
restrial cables. When the EBU proposed to replace that terrestrial network with a 
European satellite, the deadlock created by the national postal and telecommunications 
administrations finally ended." 

Lorenza Sebesta, also with the European Space Agency history project, examines the impact 
that the availability of U.S. launchers had on the development of European satellite com- 
munications. Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as between 
the United States and France, played a role, as well as the commonly held belief that the 
technological research necessary for the development of a European launcher would stim- 
ulate economic growth. She pays close attention to the influence of U.S. policy on the 
European nations' decision to design and build their own launchers — and particularly to 
the shifting U.S. position on the offering of launcher technology and facilities over time. 

A number of factors shaping the development of satellite communications in Europe 
emerge from Sebesta's perceptive study. She demonstrates the interweaving of U.S. and 
European satellite communications policy. She also discusses how the United States could 
use its commanding position to dominate the negotiations that led to the creation of 
Intelsat (the umbrella organization for the unified global satellite communications sys- 
tem) and to garner for U.S. industry, as a consequence of that commanding position, the 
largest share of Intelsat contracts. The United States sought to impose its will on Europe 
through these negotiations, especially the clause relating to the creation of regional satel- 
lite systems and the geographical definition of the European broadcast space. However, 
the U.S. position was not based solely on its technological and industrial lead; it was close- 
ly associated with security concerns, specifically the transfer of sensitive technology and 
generally the NATO alliance. Sebesta sheds light, too, on some of the motives behind 
NASA's attempts to foster cooperation with its European partners, such as the desire to 
channel funding away from military ends and toward peaceful uses of space. In turn, for 
example. West Germany hoped to acquire military-related technologies denied it by 
treaties dating from the end of World War II. 

10. See Arturo Russo's conclusion in Chapter 10 of this book, titled "Launching the European 
Telecommunications Satellite Program." 

11. Rene Collette, "Space Communications in Europe: How did we Make it Happen?," History and 
Technology 9 (1992): 83-93. 

Sebesta points out that not only was there discordance over a collective satellite commu- 
nications policy among Western European states, but that within those states discord 
reigned. At the European level, France and Britain were at odds. France favored an inde- 
pendent European launcher and had taken a number of steps to establish ?l farce defrappe 
separate from the nuclear umbrella held out by the United States through the NATO 
alliance. Nonetheless, not everybody in France was in favor of a European launcher. 

In contrast to the French position, the British generally favored collaborating with the 
United States and relying on U.S. launch services. As with France, Britain was not unified 
on satellite communications policy. British disunity is the subject of Nigel Wright's contri- 
bution. Scholars, he argues, have tended to portray Britain as an obstructionist player, 
holding up satellite communications development to protect its substantial investment in 
underwater telegraph and telephone cables, and they have concentrated on the role of 
the British Post Office to the exclusion of other government offices. Here, Wright focus- 
es on the part played by the Foreign Office to illuminate the spectrum of views that shaped 
the British position on satellite communications vis-a-vis Europe and the United States. 

While British officials were aware of the potential threat that a U.S. satellite system posed 
for British cable interests, they did not act "automatically" to frustrate early satellite devel- 
opment. Rather, they viewed satellites and cables as playing complementary roles, as 
Daniel Headrick notes in the case of cables and radio. Moreover, according to Wright, 
many people both in and out of British government favored construction of an indepen- 
dent satellite system in collaboration with Europe and the British Commonwealth. The 
Foreign Office, however, supported cooperation with the United States for diplomatic rea- 
sons, mainly to preserve good relations with that country. The Ministry of Aviation, on the 
other hand, backed an independent satellite system — a position arising from that min- 
istry's role as Britain's voice in ELDO. The position of the British Post Office derived 
chiefly from its interaction with the membership of the Commonwealth 
Telecommunications Partnership. The Post Office at first favored an independent 
Commonwealth-European satellite system, believing that a satellite system controlled by 
the United States (and serving mainly the highly profitable transatlantic telecommunica- 
tions routes) would not meet Commonwealth needs. Thus, Wright manages a convincing 
argument that opposes the established historiography — namely, that with the exception 
of the Foreign Office, British governmental agencies early on preferred a satellite system 
independent of the United States. 

The lion's share of deliberations between Western Europe and the United States over satel- 
lite communications took place within the framework of negotiations over the creation of 
a unified global satellite communications system — ^what eventually came to be called 
Intelsat. In 1972, Jonathan F. Galloway examined those negotiations from a policy studies 
perspective, shordy after their resolution in the Intelsat Definitive Agreements signed in 
May 1971.'^ He returns a quarter century later, in this volume, to reconsider those events 
and his conclusions. 

Galloway finds that his original themes "remain very relevant, despite the more colorful 
and even dramatic new vocabulary introduced by the likes of Newt Gingrich, the Tofflers, 
and Kenichi Ohmae." These themes are as follows: 

12. Jonathan F. Galloway, The Politics and Technology of Satellite Communications (Lexington, MA: 
Lexington Books, 1972). 

• Revolutionary or evolutionary technological change 

• The breakdown of barriers between making and understanding foreign and domestic 

• Models of rationality in policy-making appropriate to changing contexts 

Seeking to understand the decision-making process, Galloway considers the mixture of 
cooperation, competition, and conflict manifested by the Intelsat negotiations as eluding 
understanding at the global or comprehensive level, because they operated in a way that 
was "pragmatic, incremental, and muddled." Indeed, he asserts, 'The world is not a tidy 
place. There is chaos, and at the edge of chaos one new world order is not emerging. So 
it was in the formative period of satellite communications."'* 

As for the development of satellite communications, Galloway takes the reader through 
the maze of agencies responsible for establishing U.S. satellite communications policy and 
for determining the country's bargaining position vis-a-vis the Intelsat negotiations. While 
Russo, Sebesta, and Wright present the European rationale, Galloway presents that of the 
United States. A major obstacle in those negotiations was the U.S. penchant for privately 
owned telecommunications monopolies. If a private company, such as Comsat, were to 
enter into negotiations with foreign governments over satellite communications policy, 
what would be the role of government? How would the State Department, the Pentagon, 
or the FCC participate in those negotiations? Galloway explores these questions and shows 
how they influenced U.S. satellite communications discussions with Europe. Traditionally, 
European state telecommunications administrations had contracted on a bilateral basis 
with AT&T, not the U.S. government. With the creation of Comsat, AT&T was out of the 
negotiating picture, but Europeans still expected to negotiate with a private business. 

Although the U.S. military had been developing passive space communications tech- 
niques since the 1950s, DoD use of the civilian satellite system was resolved in 1964. 
However, according to Galloway, this issue arose again on more than one occasion. In the 
end, DoD bought satellite access from Comsat. As with the Intelsat negotiations, the 
Pentagon's use of civilian satellites involved both domestic and foreign considerations. In 
a final section, Galloway discusses Soviet satellite communications and the diplomatic 
motives behind the creation of an Intelsat clone known as Intersputnik. In this context, 
the theme of state versus business interests echoes, as the Soviet Union proposed a world 
satellite system that only states, not private entities such as Comsat, could join. This posi- 
tion was equally an expression of Cold War diplomacy. 

The Unfolding of the World System 

Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Part III contains the themes of the third stage of satellite communications development 
and consists of two sections. The first addresses the geographical growth of satellite com- 
munications, while the second considers satellite applications. By examining the growth 
of satellite communications in North America (Canada and Cuba) and Asia (China, India, 
and Indonesia) , the first section draws attention to the influence of geography, politics. 

13. See the introductory paragraphs in Jonathan F. Galloway, "Originating Communications Satellite 
Systems: The Interactions of Technological Change, Domestic Politics, and Foreign Policy," which is Chapter 13 
of this book. 

and culture on satellite communications development in those regions. Above all else, 
though, the papers implicitly highlight the creation of the global satellite system country 
by country. 

Among the first countries to establish domestic satellite communications systems were those 
that span vast distances, such as the United States, Canada, the Soviet Union, China, and 
India. Such vast nation-states require a unified national telecommunications network, and 
satellites serve that need efficiently and effectively. Bert C. Blevis, drawing on his personal 
experience in the field, oudines the case of Canada. Appropriately, he begins with the 
ionospheric research that preceded satellite communications efforts; early Canadian satel- 
lites continued that research tradition. As in the United States, Canadian investigators 
considered lunar and meteor communications techniques. That work merits additional 
exploration by scholars to provide a greater understanding of the origins of satellite com- 

Political decisions were important in the shaping of Canada's satellite communications 
program. As Blevis notes, Canada did not follow the U.S. or European lead in developing 
its own launcher, relying instead on those of NASA and ESA. The government was not 
unaware of the economic benefits of supporting a space program, however. In 1963, the 
Canadian government decided to transfer space technology from the Defence Research 
Telecommunications Establishment to industry. Also, after the 1967 Chapman report rec- 
ommended encouraging the Canadian space industry, the Communications Technology 
Satellite program sought to improve Canada's satellite and spacecraft design and manu- 
facturing capability. While Blevis addresses geographical and political questions in his 
overview of Canadian satellite communications development, the impact of satellites on 
Canadian culture remains for a future study. The apparent strength of the resurgent 
French separatist movement in Quebec argues against the notion that satellites tend to 
homogenize national cultures. 

From Canada we turn to China — another country that occupies a large land mass, not to 
mention a fourth of the world's population. Zhu Yilin, a member of the Chinese Academy 
of Space Technology, provides an overview of satellite communications development in 
that country. Geography was a key factor, but, unlike the United States and Canada, China 
lacked an extensive national telecommunications system until the inauguration of its satel- 
lite program. The cultural and political impact of satellites in China, therefore, has been 
all the more dramatic. Satellite communications served to establish a national education- 
al television network, provided long-distance telecommunications, and assisted in the 
modernization of the country's banking system. The use of nationwide television broad- 
casts to foster political unity and to insert the Beijing political line into each and every vil- 
lage cannot be overlooked. 

Yet another geographically large country to establish a domestic satellite communications 
system is India. Participation in the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), 
carried out in cooperation with NASA, and India's first communications satellite, INSAT, 
form the heart of the contribution by Raman Srinivasan. Drawing from research carried 
out for his doctoral dissertation, Srinivasan shows how India's earliest experiences with 
satellite communications served as a fulcrum for social and cultural change and econom- 
ic development during a critical period in that country's evolution. 

SITE was a massive experiment in social engineering. It involved placing televisions in 
5,000 remote villages, some of which lacked electricity. One of the major challenges to 
making the experiment work was to create six hours of programming every day. SITE also 
proved vital in inculcating technical and managerial expertise necessary for India to cre- 
ate its own domestic satellite system, known as INSAT. This system was geared to serve 
rural India; a weather system was added specifically to aid farmers. 

Brian Shoesmith draws on his research as a media scholar to discuss India and China, as 
well as Indonesia, and highlights the influence of culture and politics in the Asian "medi- 
ascape." The significance of satellites is their ability to undermine state control of media 
and to force governments to rethink their broadcasting and communications policies. 
Because Asian satellites have broad footprints, sometimes covering the entire Eurasian 
land mass, political boundaries and geographical hindrances are surmounted. 

The development of satellite communications in Asia, according to Shoesmith, took place 
in three stages, all of which are linked to the dominant trends in the growth of television 
on the continent. In the first stage, from 1962 to the 1980s, satellites were perceived as a 
tool of social engineering in developing economies. Stage two spans the late 1980s and 
was characterized by the response of Asian governments to the end of the Cold War. 
The third stage, 1991 to the present, is distinguished by the dominance of commercial 

Shoesmith makes some cogent observations. Rather than killing off old media technolo- 
gies, such as newspapers, satellites have actually reinforced them, especially the vernacu- 
lar press. Satellites, moreover, have not promoted the homogenization or standardization 
supposedly inherent in the technology. In addition, Shoesmith notes that the growth of 
satellite-related applications in Asia has resulted from a linking of Western technology and 
local capital. 

The introduction of satellite communications into Canada, China, and India served an 
important internal need by providing telecommunications services efficiently and effec- 
tively over a vast expanse of territory. Satellite communications also linked countries to 
each other. Maintaining communications links with the rest of the world is most critical 
for island nations. The case of Cuba illustrates this geopolitical requirement, as well as 
some of the cultural and political aspects of satellite communications in a country that has 
been a member of both the Intersputnik and Intelsat organizations. 

Jose Altshuler, drawing on his extended research into the history of electricity and his 
participation in the Cuban space program, begins with some useful background on long- 
distance shortwave radio communications and an ingenuous attempt to relay the televi- 
sion broadcast of the World Series baseball games to Cuba via an airplane. Radio also 
linked Cuba to Eastern Europe and other countries before satellites became available. 
The creation of the Soviet satellite system, separate from that controlled by Intelsat, pro- 
vided Cuba its first experience with satellite communications, beginning in 1973. 
However, Intersputnik provided only limited coverage until the replacement of the 
Molniya series with the geostationary Horizont and Statsionar satellites. 

The Molniya satellites had been placed in a highly elliptical orbit, the so-called Molniya A 
orbit, which made them visible over a wide area of Soviet territories for about eight hours 
a day. The Molniya A orbit was better suited for coverage of the Soviet Union than a 

geostationary orbit. It covered areas geostationary satellites could not serve, and launcl^l 
es from high latitudes more easily entered this orbit than a geostationary orbit over the 
equator. The Molniya satellites were used for telephone and fax services and to distribute 
television programs from a central point near Moscow. During the 10 years following the 
launch of Molniya I, twenty-nine more were placed in orbit. 

Historian Roberto Diaz-Martin continues Altshuler's discussion of Cuban satellite com- 
munications. A technological difficulty that arose as a consequence of Cuba joining the 
socialist bloc was the switch from NTSC to SECAM. Cuban television, which dated from 
the 1950s, used the NTSC broadcast standard and operated on 110 volts at 60 hertz, while 
SECAM receivers required 220 volts at 50 hertz, the European standard. In the end, geo- 
graphical and cultural factors decided in favor of NTSC, the standard used by most 
Caribbean countries. Using SECAM would have isolated Cuba from its neighbors. Diaz- 
Martin also relates how Cuba joined Intelsat, as well as some of the cultural uses (program 
exchanges) of satellite communications. 


Departing from the preceding discussions of the development of satellite communica- 
tions systems, the second section of Part III examines satellite applications — that is, the 
ends to which people use the communications capability made available by satellites. This 
topic is sufficiently broad in scope as to merit its own volume. However, we present three 
case studies of satellite applications in the fields of education, medicine, and mobile com- 
munications, as well as their integration into corporate strategy. 

Joseph N. Pelton discusses Project SHARE (Satellites for Health and Rural Education), 
which he conceived as Intelsat's director of strategic policy to commemorate the organi- 
zation's twentieth birthday. The program makes free satellite capacity available to provide 
health and educational services to rural and remote areas. Project SHARE provided a 
fresh framework for international cooperation and engendered dozens of projects that 
affected nearly 100 countries and millions of people. Currently, fifty countries participate 
in Project SHARE. 

Pelton concludes that the most successful programs were those designed and developed 
by the participating country. The technology that made the program succeed, especially 
in the rural areas where it was most needed, opposes the dictum that "big is beautiful." 
Small, low-cost ground pieces of equipment — not the large ground stations and heavy 
streams of traffic that typify satellite communications — ^were best suited to delivering edu- 
cational and medical services to rural and remote districts. This technology was part of a 
larger satellite communications "revolution" that saw a number of new services and 
ground technologies emerge. 

Among the satellite applications perceived as new is mobile communications. Edward J. 
Martin draws on his personal experience in this field to discuss the development of mobile 
satellite communications from the 1950s to the present. He begins with lunar relay com- 
munications and Project West Ford. Just as an airplane served to relay the World Series 
between Miami and Havana, one of the earliest tests of mobile communications involved 
the use of an airplane. 

Martin relates the arduous struggle to create an aircraft-to-satellite navigation and com- 
munications system, called Aerosat, between 1963 and 1975. Several factors frustrated and 
eventually doomed attempts to bring Aerosat to life: 

• The lack of a unified policy within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 

• European opposition to the prospect of U.S. domination in another satellite application 

• Disagreement on which frequency band to use 

• The failure to include the airlines in the process 

If the airline industry could not realize a satellite system, the maritime trade was more suc- 
cessful, perhaps because the effort began in 1966 under the aegis of the United Nations' 
International Maritime Consultative Organization, which included delegates from the 
world's major seafaring countries. The result was Inmarsat (International Maritime 
Satellite Organization — later the word "Mobile" would be substituted for "Maritime"). 
After relating the initial problems faced by Inmarsat, Martin considers the organization's 
extension into aeronautical services. 

In the last paper, MCI's historian, Adam 
L. Gruen, examines the use of communi- 
cation satellites by that U.S. telecommuni- 
cations firm. Although not a profitable 
venture, the company's use of satellites 
was not a mistake; it was a necessary part 
of a greater and deliberate business 
scheme. Indeed, MCI knew that it was 
acquiring a money-losing enterprise 
(Satellite Business Systems) . Scholars who 
consider only the immediate profitability 
of corporate strategies should take heed. 

Given life by a court decision, MCI need- 
ed to build a telecommunications 
network quickly. Here, we might see a 
parallel with China, which acquired a 
nationwide telecommunications system 
almost instantaneously by launching a 
communications satellite. MCI manage- 
ment considered two technologies, satel- 
lites and fiber optics, and opted for both. Gruen argues that MCI's purchase of Satellite 
Business Systems has to be understood within the context of 1980s business practices, 
when takeovers, corporate raiders, junk bonds, and pension plundering were common. 
To defend itself against a hostile takeover, MCI acquired "shark repellent" in the form of 
a stock sale to IBM. MCI's purchase of Satellite Business Systems, partly owned by IBM, 
gave it access to that firm's business customers. As Gruen concludes, "One has to be will- 
ing to expand one's definition of profitability from the narrow frame of return-on- 
investment to the bigger picture."''' 

Figure 5 

Artist's sketch of how the NASA AT1S£ satellite, scheduled for 
launch in 1969, was to proinde communications for trans- 
atlantic commercial air traffic. (Courtesy of NASA, photo no. 

at MCI." 

14. See the conclusion of Chapter 22 of this book by Adam L. Gruen, "Net Gain: The Use of Satellites 


Gruen's paper also echoes the cable-versus-radio theme addressed by Headrick, although 
with MCI, as with Nigel Wright's discussion of British satellite communications, it was a 
matter of cables versus satellites. The two technologies today have found their niche based 
on the advantages of each over the other. Whereas cables are best suited to point-to-point 
circuits, satellites provide point-to-multiple-point service. Also, the cost of cable circuits 
increases with distance, while satellite circuit costs are independent of distance between 
ground terminals. Satellites, too, can ford physical and political barriers that impede cable 
placement, and satellites are uniquely suited to mobile communications. 


The contributions to this volume do not begin to exhaust the subject of satellite commu- 
nications development; that would be impossible given the present state of research. 
Nonetheless, the papers that follow present a broad, but systematic survey of the devel- 
opment of satellite communications. It is hoped that this book will stimulate readers to 
undertake fresh research, advancing knowledge in this field and leading eventually to the 
writing of a synthetic work. In addition, one can hope that a beneficial interaction 
between scholars and practitioners will be part of that synthetic work. 

Appended to this volume are two aids for understanding the development of satellite com- 
munications. One is a chronology of key events synthesized from timelines submitted by 
this book's contributors, as well as from selected works on the subject. The other is a list 
of suggested additional readings on the development of satellite communications. Those 
wishing complete technical details on satellites, or a list of satellites currently in service, 
should consult Jayne's or NASA's Satellite Situation Report, published by the Goddard Space 
Flight Center. 

Part I: 

Passive Origins 

Chapter 1 

Radio Versus Cable: International 
Telecommunications Before Satellites 

by Daniel R, Headrick 

The current rivalry between satellites and fiber optic cables in long-distance and inter- 
continental telecommunication is not the first case of two technologies coexisting to meet 
a similar demand. Consider trucks versus railroads, cable versus broadcast television, and 
movies versus videos. Sometimes the two rival technologies coexist because they comple- 
ment each other, such as trucks and railroads. In other cases, they compete until one 
displaces the other, such as steamships for sailing ships. By studying an earlier rivalry in 
intercontinental telecommunications — namely, that between submarine telegraph cables 
and radiotelegraphy in the first half of this century — ^we may find some parallels and 
fruitful insights into the current rivalry between satellites and fiber optic cables.' 

Intercontinental Telecommunications Before 1907 

Before 1907, all intercontinental telecommunications used submarine telegraph 
cables with a copper core insulated with gutta-percha and protected by an armor of iron 
wires. Submarine cables, in turn, were synonymous with an overwhelming British pre- 
ponderance in the international telecommunications business. Thus in 1908, British firms 
owned 56.2 percent of the world's submarine cable network, compared with a U.S. share 
of 19.5 percent and a French share of 9.4 percent.^ Taking into account the commercial 
use of cables, the British share shrinks, because the most heavily used cables across the 
Adantic belonged to two American firms, Western Union and Commercial Cable; in 1911, 
Western Union leased the last two cables owned by British firms.'' If, however, we focus on 
the military and political value of cables, Britain had an even greater advantage than its 
share indicates, for many foreign cables passed through Britain or its colonies; the domi- 
nant British firms. Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies, controlled both the 
Danish telegraph firm that operated the land lines from Europe across Russia to China 
and the American company that operated the American transpacific cable. ^ 

1. This paper is based on Daniel R. Headrick, The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunications and International 
Politics, 1851-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). 

2. Maxime de Margerie, Le reseau anglais de cables sous-marins (Paris: A. Pedone, 1909), 
pp. 34-35. 

3. Charles Bright, "Extension of Submarine Telegraphy in a Quarter Century," Engineering Magazine 16 
(December 1898): 420-25; Vary T. Coates and Bernard Finn, A Retrospective Technology Assessment: Submarine 
Telegraphy. The Transatlantic Cable of 1866 (San Francisco: San Francisco Press, 1979), ch. 5; Alvin F. Harlow, Old 
Wires and New Waves: The History of the Telegraph, Telephone and Wireless (New York: Appleton-Century, 1936), 
425-28; Gerald R. M. Garratt, One Hundred Years of Submarine Cables (London: H.M.S.O., 1950), 30; Kenneth R. 
Haight, Cableships and Submarine Cables (Washington, DC: U.S. Underseas Cable Corporation, 1968), pp. 316-21. 

4. On the British cable network, see Hugh Barty-King, Girdle Round the Earth: The Story of Cable and 
Wireless and its Predecessors to Mark the Group's Jubilee, 1929-1979 (London: Heinemann, 1979). On their strategic 
value, see Paul M. Kennedy, "Imperial Cable Communications and Strategy, 1879-1914," English Historical Review 
86 (1971): 728-52. 

Passive Origins 

It is important to understand this preponderance because it gave Britain the power to 
scrutinize, censor, or ban foreign telegrams around the world — a power that it first exer- 
cised during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. This power naturally irritated Britain's 
rivals, France and Germany. Around the turn of the century, both countries tried to build 
up rival submarine cable networks — a hopeless endeavor, for cables were too costly and 
remained vulnerable to cutting by British cable ships in the event of war. What the world 
learned during the turn of the century, and even more clearly during World War I, was 
that international communication was not just a technology or a business, but an instru- 
ment of power in the rivalry between nations. 

The Era of Complementarity: 
Cables and Radio, 1907-1927 

Guglielmo Marconi did not invent radio all by himself, but he certainly was the first 
to think of commercializing it as a communications system. His first customers, not sur- 
prisingly, were the British and Italian navies, the major shipping companies, and Lloyd's 
of London insurance. Thus, he created — and quickly occupied — a new niche in telecom- 
munications. Marconi had greater ambitions, however, for he wanted to create a global 
telecommunications network that would rival the Eastern Telegraph Company's subma- 
rine cable network. In 1907, he opened the first transatlantic stations at Clifden, Ireland, 
and Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, challenging the cables on their home ground.*^ 

Some countries adopted radiotelegraphy without Marconi's help. The German gov- 
ernment encouraged its two electrical equipment manufacturers, Siemens and AEG, to 
found a new company, Telefunken, to provide equipment and service to German ships. 
By 1906, Telefunken began building a gigantic station near Berlin to communicate with 
North America and the German colonies in West Africa. Soon thereafter, the U.S. Navy 
built a station in Arlington, Virginia, which was the first of a chain able to reach any ship 
in the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.^ 

During this period, radio not only reached ships at sea, but it also competed with 
cables between land locations. The competition, however, was restrained for both eco- 
nomic and technological reasons. It must be remembered that long-distance radio during 
that period used long waves — that is, wavelengths measured in kilometers with frequencies 
of 100 kilohertz or less. Propelling such waves across an ocean required enormous and 

5. Charles Lesage, La rivalite franco-britannique: Les cables sous-marins allemands (Paris: Plon, 1915); Artur 
Kunert, Geschichte der deutschen Femmeldekabel. II. Tekgraphen-Seekabel (Co\ogne-Mu\heim: Karl Glitscher, 1962). On 
cables and the great-power rivalries at the turn of the century, see Headrick, The Invisible Weapon, chs. 5 and 6. 

6. Hugh G.J. Aitken, Syntony and Spark: The Origins of Radio (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 
1985), pp. 218-32, 286-90; Rowland F. Pocock, The Early British Radio Industry (Manchester: Manchester 
University Press, 1988); W.P Jolly, Marconi (New York: Stein & Day, 1972), pp. 32-91; WJ. Baker, A History of the 
Marconi Company (London: Methuen, 1970), pp. 25-51; Rowland F. Pocock and Gerald R.M. Garratt, The 
Origins of Maritime Radio (London: H.M.S.O., 1972), pp. 34-44. 

7. On the beginnings of German radiotelegraphy, see Hermann Thurn, Die Funkentekgraphie, 5th ed. 
(Leipzig and Berlin: B.G. Teubner, 1918); "Telefunken-Chronik" in Festschrift zum 50 jdhrigen Jubilaum der 
Telefunken Gesellschaft fiir drahtlose Telegraphie m. b H., special issue of Telefunken-Zeitung 26 (May 1953): 133-47. 
On the early years of American radio and the Navy, see Susan J. Douglas, Inventing American Broadcasting, 
1899-1922 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987); Captain Linwood S. Howeth, History of 
Communications-Electronics in the United States Navy (Washington, DC: Bureau of Ships and Office of Naval History, 
1963); Hugh GJ. Aitken, The Continuous Wave: Technology and American Radio, 1900-1932 (Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1985). On the impact of long-wave radio on internaUonal poliucs up to 1919, see Headrick, The 
Invisible Weapon, chs. 7-9. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 

costly stations. The French station built at Sainte-Assise after World War I, for instance, 
had an antenna supported by 16 towers, each one of which was almost as high as the Eiffel 
tower Moreover, the station consumed 1 ,000 kilowatts of electricity, as much as a small 
town. The cost was stupendous. A pair of transatlantic stations cost up to $4 million dol- 
lars — at a time when a Model-T automobile cost $300. A transatlantic cable in that same 
period cost $7 million. 

Across the Atlantic, the two technologies were fairly evenly balanced, for if radio was 
slightly cheaper, cables were more reliable, worked 24 hours a day, and were less vulnera- 
ble to storms or equipment failures. As radio technology improved — moving from spark 
transmitters to arcs and alternators and then to vacuum tubes — so did cable technology — 
first with regenerative repeaters and automatic printers and then with loaded cables and 
time-division multiplexing that could carry a higher volume than their prewar predeces- 

During World War I, every cable and radio station was fully occupied with military and 
war-related traffic. Although the two technologies were evenly matched technologically, 
after the war radio telegraphy gradually expanded its market share. By 1923, the Radio 
Corporation of America (RCA), founded by General Electric and the U.S. Navy, had cap- 
tured 30 percent of the North Atlantic traffic and 50 percent of the Pacific traffic." The 
reason was not technical superiority; it was because the cables were all operating to capac- 
ity in those years, and it took much longer to lay cables than to build radio transmitters. 

Radiotelegraphy politicized telecommunications even more than had been the case 
before during peacetime, for it changed the playing field between nations. Germany had 
lost its cables in the war. Britain's radio company, Marconi, was pushed out of the 
American market by General Electric and the U.S. Navy. The British government, in finan- 
cial straits and already well connected to its "empire" by cables, hesitated to subsidize 
radio. In contrast, France, which had few cables, invested heavily in radio to bypass the 
British cable network. And in the United States, where demand was greatest and capital 
was abundant, investors were eager to put their money into radio enterprises.^ The result 
was that by 1923, the United States had 3,400 kilowatts of high-powered long-distance sta- 
tions, France had 3,150 kilowatts, and the British Empire had only 700 kilowatts, hardly 
more than defeated Germany's 600 kilowatts.'" Britain's erstwhile predominance in glob- 
al telecommunications had vanished. 

The Shortwave Revolution 

In 1924, a bombshell overturned the cozy modus vivendi between cable and radio: 
shortwave radio. Ironically, it was the result of efforts by the same man who had intro- 
duced long-wave radio thirty years earlier: Guglielmo Marconi. The technology, which is 
well known, is not discussed here. Its economic impact, however, is not well understood, 
and the politics behind it, even less." 

8. On the origins of RCA, see Aitken, The Continuous Wave, chs. 6-8; Robert Sobel, RCA (New York: 
Stein & Day, 1 986) ; Kenneth Bilby, The General: David Sarnoffand the Rise of the Communications Industry (New York: 
Harper & Row, 1986). 

9. On telecommunications and international conflicts after World War I, see Headrick, The Invisible 
Weapon, ch. 10. 

10. Sir Charles Bright, The Empire's Telegraph and Trade," Fortnightly Review 113 (1923): 457-74. 

11. See Daniel R. Headrick, "Shortwave Radio and its Impact on International Telecommunications 
between the Wars," History and Technology 11 (1994): 21-32; Headrick, The Invisible Weapon, ch. 11. 

Passive Origins 

In the fall of 1924, Marconi dispatched experimental shortwave sets to several places 
around the world. Transmissions from England were received in Canada (Montreal), 
Argentina (Buenos Aires), and Australia (Sydney), twenty-three and a half hours a day. 
Not only was shortwave radio a technical success, it was also incredibly cheap. From the 
very beginning, a shortwave transmitter cost one-twentieth as much as a long-wave station 
of equivalent reach, and it used one-fiftieth of the electricity. Furthermore, it could 
transmit up to 200 words per minute, as fast as the newest cables and much faster than 
long-wave radio. In a speech to the Institute of Radio Engineers in October 1926, Marconi 
confessed: "I admit that I am responsible for the adoption of long waves for long-distance 
communication. Everyone followed me in building stations hundreds of times more pow- 
erful than would have been necessary had short waves been used. Now I have realized my 

From 1926 on, manufacturers began building shortwave equipment, and radio com- 
munications companies adopted them as quickly as possible. For the first time, radio com- 
munication was within the reach of small towns and previously isolated outposts around 
the world. Because the equipment was cheap to buy and operate, shortwave services could 
offer rates that cable companies could not begin to match. For instance, radiograms 
between England and Australia via the British Post Office shortwave service cost four 
pence per word, one-twelfth as much as a cablegram. Within six months of opening for 
business, the British Post Office shortwave service captured 65 percent of the cable traffic 
to India and Australia, as well as 50 percent of the transpacific traffic. Between France and 
Indochina, shortwave service captured 70 percent of the traffic within the first year.'' 

This was a completely different kind of competition compared with the genteel rival- 
ry of the early 1920s. This time, the cable companies faced ruin. Eastern and Associated 
announced it would shut down, sell off its cables, and distribute reserves to its sharehold- 
ers. The British government, in a rare display of energy, merged all British overseas 
telecommunications systems — public as well as private — into one company called Imperial 
and International Communications, later renamed Cable and Wireless.'^ The purpose of 
this merger was to make radio subsidize the preservation of the now-obsolete cable net- 
work. Needless to say, this was a heavy burden on the new company. The Depression, 
which began soon thereafter, weakened it even further. In the United States, Western 
Union kept only its most profitable cables in operation, while France simply abandoned its 
cables. Companies that had no cables, such as RCA, profited at the expense of their rivals. 

Strategy Versus Business: Cables After 1928 

Why did Britain preserve its cables — including barely used ones between such out-of- 
the-way places as Sierra Leone and Ascension Island or Lagos and Saint-Vincent — at a cost 
estimated at $2.5 million dollars a year? Because the British government knew, through 
long experience, that radio was vulnerable to eavesdropping and espionage. Indeed, dur- 
ing World War II, as in World War I, Britain's cable communications with the United 
States and the rest of the British Empire remained secret, while German and Japanese 

12. Quoted from Douglas Coe, Marconi: Pioneer of Radio (New York: J. Messner, 1943), p. 237. 

13. Baker, A History of the Marconi Company, p. 229; Barty-King, Girdle Round the Earth, p. 203; L. Gallin, 
"Renseignements statistiques sur le developpement des communications radiotelegrahiques en Indochine," 
Bulletin economique de I'Indochine 32 (1929): 370-74. 

14. Barty-King, Girdle Round the Earth, pp. 203-26; Baker, A History of the Marconi Company, pp. 223-31; 
Headrick, "Shortwave Radio," passim. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 

radio communications, as we now know, were regularly breached. Furthermore, during 
the war and for several years thereafter, every channel of communication was filled to 
capacity. Not until the 1950s were the last of the old copper cables finally laid to rest on 
the ocean floor. 


What can the story of cables and radio before World War II tell us about the current 
rivalry between satellites and fiber optic cables? First, the two modern technologies seem 
evenly matched, but not identical. Satellites are best at mobile communication with ships 
and planes and the like. Fiber optic cables, meanwhile, are best at handling high-volume 
traffic between important urban centers in the developed countries. Both technologies 
improve daily, demand is strong, and there is plenty of room for both to grow. The situa- 
tion is uncannily reminiscent of the situation in the early 1920s: a bit of competition, 
much complementarity, and good times for all. Second, if international telecommunica- 
tions were considered strategic resources before World War I, and even more so between 
the wars, there is no reason to think that they are less strategic today, although such 
matters are never discussed publicly. 

But does history help predict the future? Based on the history of telecommunications 
before World War II, one can predict not one, but two futures. 

The first of these two alternative futures can be called "the scenario of continuity." It 
assumes refinements in technology, but no revolutionary changes. There will be more and 
more satellites until every American, European, and Japanese can go anywhere with a 
pocket or wristwatch phone and call up anyone anywhere in the world by his or her per- 
sonal identification code. Cables, meanwhile, will be fully occupied with computer data, 
video images, and the "chatter" of deskbound people, talking to friends overseas for next 
to nothing. Already, dozens of fiber optic cables cross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 
According to the British journal Public Network Europe, the "Fiberoptic Link Around the 
Globe," slated to open in 1997, stretching from Britain to Japan, will contain 120,000 dig- 
ital circuits, each capable of carrying images and video as well as voice. '^ Other cables are 
planned around Africa, between Europe and Southeast Asia, and on almost every other 
major route. Although satellites always will be needed, cables are likely to increase their 
market share into the early twenty-first century. Fiber optic cables have the same advan- 
tage as their copper-cored ancestors: they are practically impossible to eavesdrop on, and 
they are much less vulnerable than radio or satellites to electromagnetic interference, 
including nuclear explosions. 

The other future, "the scenario of discontinuity," involves an unprecedented and rev- 
olutionary technology that might make cables and/or satellites obsolete, just as shortwave 
radio ruined the submarine telegraph cables. Discontinuities, by definition, cannot be 

Which of the two scenarios is likely to take place? It is anyone's guess. 

15. Public Network Europe (July-August 1995): 31, quoted in the monthly bulletin of the International 
Telecommunications Union, TelecUppings 929 (August 1995): 33. 

Chapter 2 

Moon in Their Eyes: Moon 

Communication Relay at the Naval 

Research Laboratory, 1951-1962 

by David K. van Keuren 

On 24 July 1954, James H. Trexler, an engineer in the Radio Countermeasures Branch 
at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), spoke carefully into a microphone at the labo- 
ratory's Stump Neck radio antenna facility in Maryland. Two and a half seconds later, his 
words speeded back to him at Stump Neck, after traveling 500,000 miles via an Earth- 
Moon circuit.' For the first time ever, the sound of a human voice had been transmitted 
beyond the ionosphere and returned to Earth. 

Trexler's achievement marked an early watershed in the Department of the Navy's 
Communication Moon Relay project (also known as "Operation Moon Bounce"). The 
ultimate goal was to create the longest communications circuit in human history, with the 
Earth's satellite acting as a passive relay. Military strategists had long considered secure 
and reliable communications lines to be a tactical necessity. During the 1950s, the heyday 
of the Cold War, with the U.S. Navy's fleets encircling the globe, secure and reliable com- 
munications links were considered critical to national security. Ionospheric storms had 
recently cut off radio transmissions to the U.S. fleet in the Indian Ocean, thereby demon- 
strating dramatically the vulnerability of communication lines. ^ The objective of the 
Communication Moon Relay project was to add another high-tech option within the 
Navy's inventory of secure global communications technologies. 

The origins of Communication Moon Relay, however, lie not in postwar communica- 
tions research and development, but rather within the secure world of electrical intelli- 
gence gathering. The project was the spinoff of a deeply classified program centered on 
the surveillance of Soviet radar technologies, known as PAMOR (Passive Moon Relay).' 
The early history of the two programs demonstrates just how close the linkages between 
classified and unclassified research and development programs often were within the 
American military laboratories during the Cold War. 

1. A reference to the 1954 voice transmission is found in the James H. Trexler biographical file, NRL 
Historian's Reference Collection, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC. The first transmission on 24 July, 
because of security concerns, consisted only of the repetition of vowel sounds. The broadcast of actual words fol- 
lowed on 22 August. James H. Trexler, private communication, 15 October 1995. 

2. Discussed in James H. Trexler, interview with David K. Allison, 30 October 1980, Historian's Office, 
Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC. 

3. This discussion of PAMOR is based on previously classified documents within the NRL record col- 
lection now in storage at the Federal Records Center, Suidand, MD. Important documents are James H. Trexler, 
comp., "A Chronological History of U.S. Naval Radio Research Station (NRRS), from 1946 to 14 April 1962, pre- 
pared 22 July 1962"; anonymous, "Unique Aspects of the Elint [electrical intelligence] Collection Potential of 
the U.S. Naval Radio Research Station, Sugar Grove, West Virginia, January 1962." This reference is to edited 
versions in the files of the Historian's Office, NRL. Additional key documents include "Communications by 
Satellite Relay," March 1959, NRL Historian's Files; James H. Trexler, "Proposed URSI Paper for May 1955: 
Lunar Radio Circuits," collection of Countermeasures Branch memoranda dating to 1954, NRL records. Federal 
Records Center, Suitland, MD. 


Passive Origins 


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Figure 6 

Notebook entry of James H. Trexler, dated 28 January 1945, showing calculations for a long-distance communications link 
between Los Angeles, California, and Washington, D.C., via the Moon. (Courtesy of the Naval Research Laboratory) 

Bevdnd the Ionosphere 11 

Naval Radio and Radar Research 

Radio communications, particularly high-frequency communications, had long been 
a topic of interest at NRL. One of the original two laboratory divisions, when it opened in 
1923, had been Radio, under the direction of A. Hoyt Taylor. Under Taylor's direction, 
NRL personnel throughout the 1920s and 1930s explored the application of high-fre- 
quency radio to Navy communications. One side effect of these studies was the accidental 
discovery in 1929, by Leo Young and Lawrence Hyland, of the underlying principle of 
what later came to be known as radar. Subsequent work by NRL personnel in the 1930s 
led to the development of operational radar detection sets by the end of the decade.^ 

Similarly, collaborative work in the 1920s by Taylor and physicist E.O. Hulburt on the 
propagation of high-frequency radio waves in the upper atmosphere led to the discovery 
of radio skip distance.^ Consequently, by the beginning of World War II, NRL had evolved 
into a leading center for research on the application of high-frequency radio to long-dis- 
tance communications and detection. 

World War II brought most laboratory research programs to a temporary halt, as per- 
sonnel turned their attention to incremental improvements in existing technologies, as 
well as the testing and evaluation of contractor-produced war materials.** However, the war 
did spark research and development in applied programs, including radar countermea- 
sures. A dual-pronged agenda of technical development aimed at simultaneously coun- 
tering German and Japanese radar, while improving the effectiveness of American equij> 
ment, was put into place in early 1942. In 1945, these programs merged into a newly estab- 
lished Countermeasures Branch within the Ship-Shore Radio Division. Branch research 
and development continued after the war, with a shift in focus toward the electronic capa- 
bilities of an increasingly belligerent Soviet Union. 

One program of particular interest to the Countermeasures Branch was the intercep- 
tion of what was referred to as "anomalous propagation."' The study of random, anom- 
alous signals from around the world had been of interest to Radio Division researchers as 
far back as the mid-1920s.*' Interest in this phenomenon heightened during World War II, 
as increasingly powerful and sensitive Navy radar receivers picked up stray radio signals 
from Europe and Japan. After the war, under Trexler's direction, several German 
Wuerzburg antennas were shipped to Washington and scavenged for parts. Wuerzburg 
antenna arrays were subsequently erected at NRL's Blue Plains field station in 1947 for a 
program aimed at developing intercept direction-finding equipment for anomalous sig- 
nals originating in Europe and the Soviet Union.* 

4. David K. Allison, New Eye for The Navy: The Origin of Radar at the Naval Research Laboratory 
(Washington, DC: Naval Research Laboratory, 1981); David K. van Keuren, The Military Context of Early 
American Radar, 1930-1940," in Oskar Blumtritt, Hartmut Petzold, and William Aspray, eds.. Tracking The History 
of Radar (Piscataway, NJ: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 1994). 

5. Allison, New Eye for the Navy, pp. 56-57; Bruce William Hevly, "Basic Research Within a Military 
Context: The Naval Research Laboratory and the Foundations of Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Astronomy, 
192S-1960," Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1987, pp. 1 1-53. 

6. Alfred T. Drury, "War History of The Naval Research Laboratory," 1946, unpublished history in the 
series, "U.S. Naval Administrative Histories of World War II," deposited in the Department of the Navy's library. 

7. Trexler interview, 30 October 1980. 

8. See Allison, New Eye for the Navy, passim; Hevly, "Basic Research Within a Military Context," passim. 

9. Trexler interview, 30 October 1980. 

12 Passive Origins 

Consequently, with this history of research in the long-range propagation of radio 
waves, the Army Signal Corps's detection of radar waves bounced off the Moon in March 
1946 did not come as a surprise to NRL researchers.'" Indeed, there is evidence that lab- 
oratory researchers had unsuccessfully attempted to retrieve echoes from the Moon as 
early as 1928." Efforts ceased during World War II and did not resume until 1948. 
Nevertheless, it appears that the Signal Corps program did attract the attention of Dr. 
Donald Menzel of the Harvard College Observatory. In 1946, Menzel, a commander with 
the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II, as well as a member and the chair of the radio 
propagation committee of the Joint and Combined Chiefs of Staff, proposed to the 
Department of the Navy that it use Moon-reflected radio signals for secure communica- 

The response to Menzel's suggestion within the Department of the Navy is unclear. 
There does not seem to be a copy of the Menzel proposal or a Navy Department response 
within departmental records. A Navy program for using the Moon for active communica- 
tions, as suggested by Menzel and pioneered by the Army, was not immediately forth- 
coming. However, the idea of using the Moon for communications and radar intercept 
purposes came under active consideration within two years. The moving force in this case 
was NRL engineer James Trexler. 

James Trexler and Electronic Surveillance 

Trexler had studied electrical engineering at Southern Methodist University (SMU), 
where his father taught in the Political Science Department. He had demonstrated litde 
interest in traditional academic subjects, to his family's disappointment. However, he did 
prove himself to be an excellent, hands-on electrical engineer and amateur radio techni- 
cian, thereby able to support himself during his undergraduate days. 

In 1942, he came to NRL as a junior radio engineer, following in the footsteps of a for- 
mer SMU engineering professor. Dr. Samuel Lutz, and simultaneously avoiding imminent 
induction into the U.S. Army. At NRL, Trexler was assigned to the Measurement and 
Direction-Finding Unit, where he spent much of the war working with various forms of 
high-frequency direction-finding units, before being assigned to the new electronic coun- 
termeasures group in 1945." 

While at SMU, Trexler had experimented with the reflection of high-frequency radio 
waves off meteor ionization trails as part of a study on the impact of atmospheric ioniza- 
tion on radio propagation. He continued in the mid-1940s to follow the work of investi- 
gators probing the upper atmosphere and near space with high-frequency radio 
transmissions. A paper by D.D. Grieg, S. Metzger, and R. Waer of ITT's Federal 
Telecommunication Laboratories in New York City, published in May 1948, proved to be 
particularly intriguing.''' Trexler noted in his scientific notebook on 24 June 1948 that in 
Grieg, Metzger, and Waer's paper: 

10. John H. DeWitt, Jr., and E. King Stodola, "Detection of Radio Signals Reflected from the Moon," 
Proceedings of the IRE 37 (1949): 229-42; Jack. Mofenson, "Radar Echoes from the Moon," Electronics 19 (1946): 
92-98; Herbert Kauffman, "A DX Record: To the Moon and Back," QST 30 (1946) : 65-68; James Trexler, "Lunar 
Radio Echoes," Proceedings of the IRE (January 1958): 286-92. 

11. See correspondence between Kenneth B. Warner and A. Hoyt Taylor, 31 January-7 February 1946, 
NRL Historian's Files, NRL, Washington, DC; Trexler interview, 30 October 1980. 

12. See Trexler, "A Chronological History"; Trexler interview, 30 October 1980. 

13. Trexler interview, 30 October 1980. 

14. D.D. Grieg, S. Metzger, and R. Waer, "Considerations of Moon-Relay Communicadon," Proceedings of 
the IRE 56 (May 1948): 652-63. 

Beyond the Ionosphere IS 

[I]t was pointed out that there is a possibility that the Moon has an ionosphere. If this is 
true then there is a possibility that certain radio frequencies will be reflected from the Moon 's 
ionosphere ivith considerably higher efficiency than from the rugged surface of the Moon. 
The possibility of this being true was suggested by the recent experiments in Australia report- 
ed by [Grote] Reber at the Radio Astronomy meeting recently. In these tests standard trans- 
mitting and receiving equipments were used in a pulse system ivhereby the identity of the 
reflected signal was determined by coding. Delays of the correct magnitude were noticed. If 
there is any possibility of this mode of transmitting being useful to RCM [Radio Counter 
Measures] it should be given some very careful thought.^^ 

Trexler pondered how a test might be set up to explore this possibility and what sort 
of equipment might be required. 'The method of test could consist of using a beamed 
antenna having a sharp East-West pattern and a broad North-South shape," he wrote in 
his scientific notebook. "The intensity of the signal would be noted continuously and an 
attempt would be made to correlate it with the position of the Moon.""* He computed 
antenna size to determine how many antenna elements were needed to achieve a 
0.5-degree beam width. Using 270-degree spacing, Trexler determined it would take 
"about 150 elements" to obtain such a beam width with constant phase and amplitude 
across the aperture. Such an instrument would be expensive to build, but worth the 
expense, he noted. 

His laboratory notebook indicates that Trexler continued his calculations throughout 
the week of 24 June 1948. By 29 June, Trexler had come to the following conclusion: 

From the RCM [Radio Counter Measures] point of view this system hold[s] promise as a 
communication and radar intercept device for signals that cannot be studied at close range 
where normal propagation is possible. It might be well to point out that many radars are 
very close to the theoretical possibility of contacting the Moon (the MEW [Ballistic Missile 
Early Warning System, BMEWS] for example) and hence the practicability of building a 
system capable of intercepting these systems by reflections from the Moon is not beyond the 
realm of possibility. . . . The strictest security should be maintained as to the existence of such 
intercept devices since the enemy could with little difficulty restrict the operations of these sets 
so as to avoid Moon contact. One immediate application of the system would be the detec- 
tion and analysis of the Russian Radar signals that have been monitored at 500 MC 
[megahertz] near Alaska.^^ 

Trexler's efforts over the following two years were directed toward demonstrating that 
such a Moon-intercept program was technically viable. 

In late 1948 and early 1949, NRL constructed two large long-wire antennas designed 
for the high-angle observation of the Moon at its Blue Plains field facility.'* The antennas 
were designed to carry out observations in bands where Soviet radar signals were known 
to exist. By August 1949, regularly scheduled observations of the Moon were under way, 
operating under the code name "Joe," with the intent of intercepting Soviet radar signals. 
In January 1950, the Navy consulted Group Captain Dunsford, the Royal Air Force's elec- 
tronic warfare coordinator with the U.S. Navy; he helped NRL researchers hone their 
search with improved Soviet target parameters. 

15. James H. Trexler, Laboratory Notebook No. N-124, 14 June-15 July 1948, p. 61, NRL records, 
Federal Records Center. 

16. Ibid., p. &5. 

17. Ibid., pp. 70-71. 

18. Trexler, "A Chronological History." 

14 Passive Origins 

Although information on this early period of the program is sketchy, it seems that the 
results were sufficiently promising to allow Trexler and his immediate supervisor, Howard 
Lorenzen, to request approval from NRL's commanding officer. Captain Frederick Furth, 
for extended tests with more powerful radars." By June 1950, the Chief of Naval 
Operations coordinator for electronic countermeasures had been briefed and had issued 
an official military requirement for Moon-intercept intelligence. The Chief of Naval 
Research, Rear Admiral T.A. Solberg, subsequently provided $100,000 for an experimen- 
tal program, which included money for a new radar. '■^'' The effort, now an official Navy 
intelligence program, was renamed project PAMOR (Passive Moon Relay). 

Communication Moon Relay 

A site was chosen for the new antenna at Stump Neck, Maryland, on the annex 
grounds of the Navy's Indian Head Propellant Plant. Construction began in late 
December 1950 and was completed by the following September.^' The design chosen for 
the Stump Neck antenna was a parabola having an elliptical opening 220 by 263 feet 
(sixty-seven by eighty meters) . Earth-moving equipment scooped a hole out of the ground 
and paved it with asphalt; then a galvanized iron grid with three-inch-by-three-inch 
(7.5-centimeter-by-7. 5-centimeter) openings was attached to provide a reflecting surface 
good for wavelengths of one meter or more. A cable-supported boom housed the focal 
point feed structure, which could then be steered in celestial coordinates of right ascen- 
sion and declination by adjusting the cable length. The antenna was oriented so as to max- 
imize observations of the "Sino-Soviet Block," although only a few hours per month of 
observation time were available. ^'^ 

The first short-pulse radar contact with the Moon was made on 21 October 1951. The 
750-watt transmitter sent ten-microsecond, 198-megahertz pulses.^' The results surprised 
even Trexler. The fidelity of the received echo proved to be unexpectedly high. It had 
been assumed that the echo from a short pulse would have a fast rise, but a short fall. 
Theories predicted that energy would be returned from the entire illuminated sphere; 
however, the majority of the energy from the reflected pulse was received during the first 
100 microseconds, meaning that half the power in the echo had to come from a circle on 
the Moon only 210 miles (338 kilometers) in diameter, or almost exactly one-tenth the 
diameter of the Moon.^'' The consequence was a much more coherent signal than origi- 
nally expected. An immediate aftermath of the early test results was that Navy officials 
placed a higher priority and security status on the project.^^ The intelligence potential of 
passive Moon reflecUon was greater than originally surmised. A second consequence was 
the inauguration of the Communication Moon Relay project. 

19. Ibid. 

20. James H. Trexler, Laboratory Notebook No. N-411, 12 June-13 October 1950, p. 47, NRL records, 
Federal Records Center. 

21. Trexler, "A Chronological History"; anonymous, "Unique Aspects"; Trexler, "Lunar Radio Echoes"; 
B.E. Trotter and A.B. Youmans, "Communication Moon Relay (CMR)," 21 June 1957, declassified NRL Secret 
Report; Trexler, "Proposed URSI Paper for May 1955." 

22. Anonymous, "Unique Aspects." 

23. Trexler, "A Chronological History"; Trexler, "Lunar Radio Echoes." 

24. Trotter and Youmans, "Communication Moon Relay (CMR)," p. 1; Trexler, "Lunar Radio Echoes," 
p. 290. 

25. Trexler, "Chronological History." 

Beyond the Ionosphere 15 

The high fidelity of the reflected transmissions presented Trexler and his coworkers 
with an unexpected spinoff of their project. The quality of the received signal was poten- 
tially good enough to be manipulated for communications purposes. As B.E. Trotter and 
A.B. Youmans, Trexler's coworkers in the Counter measures Branch, reported later, the 
results of the 1951 trials demonstrated that "the fidelity of this circuit was higher than sug- 
gested" and "implied that the circuit would be usable in modern communication 
systems."^* Experiments using continuous wave, modulated continuous wave, and audio- 
frequency-modulated signals followed. 

Lunar communications signal and equipment testing continued over the next three 
years. On 15 June 1954, Trexler summarized the status of the work done with the Stump 
Neck and earlier NRL radio telescopes in a memorandum to Louis Gebhard, the NRL 
Radio Division's superintendent. "From the experience gained over several years of work," 
he noted, "it appears that the fidelity of the Moon circuit is much better than predicted 
resulting in the possible use of many types of circuits such as high-speed teletype, facsim- 
ile and voice." The potential uses for such a telescope included functions associated with 
radar intercept, jamming, communications, navigation, satellite search, and ionospheric 
and atmospheric research. Under "Communications," Trexler proposed using the Moon 
as a passive reflector to "broadcast to half the world at any one time" at very high fre- 
quencies (VHP), as well as for two-way communications between the United States and 
ships, submarines, or large aircraft.^' Early work had already advanced in this direction. 

By the end of 1954, Stump Neck was nearing the end of its usefulness to the PAMOR 
project. A much larger antenna was needed to actually collect the weak Soviet radar sig- 
nals. As noted in his 15 June 1954 memorandum, Trexler felt that "to utilize many of the 
possibilities of Moon relay an antenna having a 600-foot [183-meter] diameter would be 
required at VHP. Por many applications, this diameter does not change fast with frequen- 
cy since it is the absolute area that is important in receiving."^" This marked the beginning 
of an extensive lobbying and development effort for a 600-foot radio antenna at Sugar 
Grove, West Virginia. It also marked the effective separation of PAMOR from what became 
the Communication Moon Relay project. 

An advantage of the communications project was that simple antennas could be used 
at the receiving end. This advantage was particularly enhanced by the use of a 10-kilowatt 
klystron amplifier covering the ultrahigh frequency (UHP) band.^'' With the Stump Neck 
parabola serving as the transmitter, the receiver used an array of antennas, the basic ele- 
ment of which was a standard Model SK-2 radar antenna.*' Early testing included both 
teletype and voice transmission, with Trexler's voice, as mentioned previously, being the 
first to make the round-trip lunar circuit. 

After preliminary tests between the Stump Neck site and Washington, D.C., the first 
transcontinental test was set for the week of 20 November 1955. The receivers were estab- 
lished at the Navy Electronics Laboratory in San Diego, California, and after orientation 
of the field equipment, the Communication Moon Relay circuit began operating at 

26. Trotter and Youmans, "Communication Moon Relay (CMR)," p. 1. 

27. James Trexler to NRL Code 5400, Memorandum, 15 June 1954, in James H. Trexler, Laboratory 
Notebook No. N-756, 14 April-20 September 1954, p. 91, NRL records, Federal Records Center. Quoted text is 
from facsimile in NRL Historian's files. 

28. Ibid. 

29. Louis A. Gebhard, Evolution of Naval Radio-Electronics and Contributions of the Naval Research Laboratory 
(Washington, DC: NRL, 1979), p. 115. 

30. Trotter and Youmans, "Communication Moon Relay (CMR)," p. 3. 

31. Ibid., pp. 7-10. 

16 Passive Origins 

301 megahertz on 27 November. Because of the low declination of the Moon, initial per- 
formance was weak. Further adjustment of the equipment allowed a successful teletype 
message to be sent and received at 11:51 p.m., Pacific Standard Time, on 29 November. 
Dr. Robert Morris Page, the associate director of research at NRL, as well as one of the 
American inventors of radar, signaled Dr. Franz Kurie, the technical director of the Navy 
Electronics Laboratory, to "lift up your eyes and behold a new horizon." NRL conducted 
further experiments during December 1955 and early January 1956 to understand and to 
counter the signal fading that had been observed during the November tests.'^ 

Beginning on 21 January 1956, the experimental baseline was extended to Hawaii, 
where an array of eight SK-2 receivers was set up at Wahiawa, Oahu. Teletype signals were 
sent at 300 megahertz from a ten-kilowatt transmitter. On 23 January, the system received 
its U.S. Navy christening when Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, sig- 
naled a message of congratulations to Admiral Felix B. Stump, Commander-in-Chief of 
the Pacific Fleet." 

The reaction of the Department of the Navy to the experimental system was quick. 
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Development Donald A. Quarles, who wit- 
nessed the tests, became a strong supporter and provided special Department of Defense 
funds to cover development costs. Also, Admiral Burke directed the Bureau of Ships to 
develop a demonstration model of a reliable, long-range communications system using 
the new technique. By May 1956, a Department of the Navy contract had been issued to 
the Developmental Engineering Corporation of Washington, D.C., for system develop- 
ment.^^ The costs for total development (including construction) were approximately 
$5.5 million." An indication of the popularity of the Communication Moon Relay system 
may be found in the National Academy of Science's Advisory Committee on Undersea 
Warfare, which recommended in December 1956 that future American submarines use 
Moon-reflection path signaling for ship-to-shore communications."^ 

As the Communication Moon Relay system went into its production phase, the 
Communications Section of the NRL's Radar Division, which had inherited the project 
from the Radio Countermeasures Branch, began emphasizing improvements in receiver 
and transmitter design, including more powerful transmitters and transmission at higher 
frequencies. By mid-1957, lunar echo experiments were being conducted in the UHF 
band at 290 megahertz. 

The experimental system produced by the Developmental Engineering Corporation 
for the Bureau of Ships quickly led to the development of a fully operational satellite com- 
munications system between Washington, D.C., and Hawaii. The system, functional by 
1959, was inaugurated publicly in January 1960." As part of the inaugural ceremonies, pic- 
tures of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Hancock were beamed from Honolulu to Washington 
via the Communication Moon Relay system. The transmitted facsimile featured thousands 
of Hancock officers and seamen spelling out "Moon Relay" to a worldwide audience. 

32. Eventually, frequency diversity operations and the use of circular polarization were recommended. 
Ibid., p. 10. 

33. Ibid., p. 16. 

34. "U.S. Navy Communications Moon Relay (CMR) System," Naval Research Reviews (March 1960): 

35. Department of the Navy press release, 26 January 1960, in NRL document file labeled "CMR— thru 
1960," NRL records, Federal Records Center. 

36. National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council, Advisory Committee on Undersea 
Warfare, Project Nobska, The Implications of Advanced Design on Undersea Warfare, Final Report, Volume 1: Assumptions, 
Conclusions, and Recommendations (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 1 December 1956), pp. 16-19. 

37. Gebhard, Evolution of Naval Radio-Electronics, pp. 115-16. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 


Figure 7 

Facsimile picture of the U.S.S. Hancock ivith ship officers and crew spelling out "Moon Relay. " This picture luas transmitted 
via the Moon from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Washington, D.C., on 28 January 1960. (Courtesy of the Naval Research 

The completed system used eighty-four-foot-diameter (twenty-eight-meter-diameter) 
steerable parabohc antennas and 100-kilowatt transmitters installed at Annapolis, 
Maryland, and Opana, Oahu, with receivers at Cheltenham, Maryland, and Wahiawa, 
Oahu. The system operated at frequencies around 400 megahertz, it could accommodate 
up to sixteen teleprinter channels operating at the rate of sixty words per minute, and it 
was capable of processing teletype and photographic facsimiles.*^ 

During the next two years, the Communication Moon Relay system expanded to 
include ship-to-shore communications. A sixteen-foot (five-meter) steerable parabolic 
antenna and receiving equipment installed on the U.S.S. Oxford in 1961 permitted one- 
way shore-to-ship lunar satellite communications for the first time.** The addition of a one- 
kilowatt transmitter to the Oxford in 1962 permitted two-way communications, as the ship 
sailed in South American waters. These successful trial experiments with the U.S.S. Oxford 
led to the establishment of the Navy's worldwide artificial satellite communications system 
later in the decade. 

38. /ferf., pp. 117-18. 

39. Ibid., pp. 121-22; L.H. Feher, V.W. Graham, W.E. Leavitt, and M.L. Musselman, "Satellite 
Communication Research — Communications by Moon Relay (CMR)," Report ofNRI. Progress (Washington, DC: 
NRL, May 1962), pp. 36-37; "Moon Used to Transmit Shore-to-Ship Radio Messages," Naval Research Reviews, 
February 1962, pp. 21-22. 

18 Passive Origins 


The Communication Moon Relay system was the unexpected outgrowth of research 
and development in electronics intelligence — an allied but distinct field. The perceived 
need by the U.S. Navy and the American military as a whole to constantly assess Soviet 
technical capabilities rationalized and facilitated the diversion of funds and talent to fields 
that otherwise might not have been developed at such a comparatively early date. The 
construction of large-scale antenna facilities at Stump Neck, as well as the provision of 
technical support functions, such as the then-cutting-edge computational capabilities of 
the NAREC computer, provided the technical and scientific background that made the 
Communication Moon Relay system possible. Indeed, it was not only the Communication 
Moon Relay project that benefited, but also Navy radio astronomers who had access to the 
facilities during those substantial time periods when the Moon's position did not permit 
the use of the facilities for intelligence gathering. 

If anything, the history of the Communication Moon Relay project demonstrates the 
complex and often hidden history of early space communications. It clearly illustrates, 
moreover, that during the Cold War, even the most basic research, such as radar studies 
of the lunar surface, often had a national security component. As the declassification of 
documents from this era progresses, the intricate and interwoven history of national secu- 
rity needs, science, and technological development should become clearer. 

Chapter 3 

Moon Relay Experiments 
at Jodrell Bank 

by Jon Agar 

The following describes research carried out at Jodrell Bank on the reflection of radio 
waves from the Moon. These experiments formed part of wider research programs pur- 
sued at the radio astronomy establishment and had implications for military and civil com- 
munications. Certain aspects of the experiments can be related to issues of spectacle and 
the public presentation of science that placed Jodrell Bank as one of the most significant 
scientific projects of postwar British science. After the descriptions of the radar research 
programs, there is discussion of the initial reactions at Jodrell Bank to the Echo balloon 
satellite project, as well as some of the later lunar bounce experiments at another impor- 
tant British laboratory, the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough. 

Radar Astronomy at Jodrell Bank 

After Patrick Blackett succeeded William L. Bragg as the Langworthy Professor of 
Physics at Manchester University in the fall of 1937, he immediately switched the research 
direction of the physics department from crystallography to his interest, cosmic rays.' 
With this redirection, many staff changes occurred, among them the appointment of a 
new assistant lecturer, the young Bernard Lovell. Barely had this research gathered 
momentum when another event, the outbreak of hostilities with Germany in 1939, scat- 
tered the physicists into altogether new environments and responsibilities. World War II 
mixed and transformed the three traditional locales of scientific research: the military, 
academia, and industry. In the radar, aeronautical, and code-breaking projects, academic 
scientists became aware of the extent of available resources, as well as the possibilities of 
goal-oriented, large-scale research. Links were forged between academic scientists and the 
government, in both the military and civil service. Many physicists, including Lovell from 
Manchester and Martin Ryle from Cambridge, entered radar research at the 
Telecommunications Research Establishment, as it was called by the end of the war. 
Located at Malvern, this establishment was in many ways the British analogue of the 
Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).^ 

1. A.C. Bernard Lovell, P.M.S. Blackett: A Biographical Memoir {Eristol: ]ohn Wright & Sons, 1976), p. 29. 

2. A. Calder, The People's War: Britain 1 939-45 (London: Cape, 1969) , pp. 457-77; A.P. Rowe, One Story 
of Radar (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1948); Edward G. Bowen, Radar Days (Bristol: Adam Hilger, 
1987); A.C. Bernard Lovell, Echoes of War: The Story ofHZS Radar (Bristol: Adam Hilger, 1991). 



Passive Origins 

Figure 8 
Sir Bernard Lovell, director and founder ofthejodrell Bank radio astronomy observatory, seated at his desk. Partially visible 
in the background is the observatory's 250-foot (seventy-six-meter) telescope, which, with equipment from Pye 
Telecommunications Ltd., served to establish a long-distance communications link via the Moon. (Courtesy of NASA) 

The physicists demobilized at the end of World War II were skilled in radar tech- 
niques; they were intent on reentering academia, but they were also well connected with 
the military and government. Committees considering postwar reconstruction and policy 
gave high priority to science in the universities. With the Barlow Committee in 1946 insist- 
ing on a doubling of "scientific manpower," there was pressure on the universities to 
expand their scientific departments.^ Blackett, who was one of a number of scientists to be 
appointed to important government advisory positions during the war, as well as a mem- 
ber of the Barlow Committee, thus returned to his Manchester physics department, and 
he was prepared for growth. 

Blackett and Lovell recruited radar researchers and secured war surplus equipment 
to continue the department's prewar work on cosmic rays, this time hoping to use radar 

3. Philip Gummett, Scientists in Whitehall (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980), 
pp. 218-20. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 21 

techniques to detect and investigate cosmic ray showers.^ The radar group established 
itself at a university-owned location, a botanical research site named Jodrell Bank and 
located twenty miles (thirty-two kilometers) south of Manchester. Blackett's policy of 
departmental expansion was to encourage rapid growth in a diversity of projects under 
team leaders, rather than channeling all of the department's resources into cosmic rays. 
The Jodrell Bank Research Station grew. When the echoes displayed by the radar sets were 
identified with meteors in 1946, cosmic ray research branched into an expanding meteor 
astronomy program. 

One can discern two phases of meteor astronomy at Jodrell Bank. First, from 1946 to 
about 1955, meteor research expanded, with the development of new techniques and the 
acquisition of new staff. A radar technique devised to deduce orbital characteristics — in 
particular, whether an orbit was closed (elliptical) or open (hyperbolic) — allowed radar 
astronomy to comment on a recognized problem already raised, but not resolved, by opti- 
cal astronomy: the origins of sporadic meteors. Jodrell Bank astronomers argued that they 
had demonstrated closed orbits for meteors that did not form part of showers, and they 
concluded that all meteors form part of the solar system. During this first phase, research 
support came mostly through Manchester University and student fellowships awarded by 
the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). 

During the second phase, from about 1955 to the late 1960s, meteor astronomy was 
no longer a program of central importance at Jodrell Bank. As the 250-foot (seventy-six- 
meter) radio telescope neared completion, new subjects and techniques took center 
stage: research on the scintillation of radio sources; the use of long baseline interferome- 
try techniques; and radar studies of the Moon, planets, and, after 1957, satellites. Meteor 
research in this second phase was directed less toward astronomy and more toward ionos- 
pheric phenomena that might affect missiles. Research support came from the U.S. Air 

Studies of radar echoes from the Moon emerged from Jodrell Bank's meteor astron- 
omy program. Observations of lunar echoes had been achieved in 1946 by Lt. Col. John 
H. DeWitt at the U.S. Army Signal Corps's Evans Signal Laboratory, using a continuous- 
wave transmitter, and by Zoltan Bay in Hungary, using an unusual chemical electrolysis 
receiver.'^ During the late 1940s, Frank Kerr, Alex Shain, and Charles Higgins, Australian 
physicists at the Division of Radiophysics of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial 
Research Organization, also measured the strength of lunar echoes. They confirmed 
DeWitt's observation of occasional signal fading, but they differed in terms of the expla- 
nation. While DeWitt ascribed rises in signal strength to smooth bounce points, the 
Australians distinguished between rapid fading (caused by Moon libration) and slow fad- 
ing (from some other, possibly ionospheric, cause). "^ 

At Jodrell Bank, William Murray, supported by a DSIR student fellowship, and J.K. 
Hargreaves began their study of lunar echoes in connection with a meteor research team 
led by Tom Kaiser. By 1953, they reported that "50,000 echoes were photographed and 

4. P.M.S. Blackett and A.C. Bernard Lovell, "Radio Echoes and Cosmic Ray Showers," Proceedings of the 
Royal Society of London, ser. A, vol. 177 (1941): 183-86. See also A.C. Bernard Lovell, 'The Blackett-Eckersley- 
Lovell Correspondence of World War Two and the Origins of Jodrell Bank," Notes and Records of the Royal Society 
of London 47 (1993): 119-31. 

5. Andrew J. Butrica, To See the Unseen: A History of Planetary Radar Astronomy (Washington, DC: NASA 
SP-4218, 1996), pp. 6-12; James S. Hey, TheEvolution of Radio Astronomy (New York: Science History Publications, 
1973), pp. 25-26. 

6. Frank Kerr, Alex Shain, and Charles Higgins, "Moon Echoes and Penetration of the Ionosphere," 
Nature 163 (1949): 310-13; Frank Kerr and Alex Shain, "Moon Echoes and Transmission through the 
Ionosphere," Proceedings oftheIRE39 (1951): 230-242; Hey, TheEvolution of Radio Astronomy, pp. 1 18-19; Butrica, 
To See the Unseen, pp. 21-22. 

22 Passive Origins 

analyzed." Murray and Hargreaves noted that the slow fading had a diurnal pattern, 
strongly suggesting an ionospheric origin. They concluded, after fresh observations of 
both the horizontally and vertically polarized components of lunar echoes, that "the long 
period fading" arose from a slow rotation of the plane of polarization of the radio wave as 
it passed through the ionosphere — a phenomenon known as the "Faraday effect."' 

Soon after the Faraday effect experiments, Murray and Hargreaves took positions 
elsewhere, at the Radar Research Station (the renamed Telecommunications Research 
Establishment) and the DSIR's Radio Research Station at Slough." Lunar echo research at 
Jodrell Bank now became the work of John V. Evans, who arrived as a postgraduate stu- 
dent in 1954 and whose supervisor was Ian C. Browne, a colleague of Tom Kaiser working 
on radar echoes from meteors.^ Finding the apparatus of Murray and Hargreaves a "poor 
instrument," Evans rebuilt it, increasing the transmitter peak power from one to ten kilo- 
watts and improving the receiver sensitivity.'" The aerial, which was used for both trans- 
mission and reception, was "an echelon of ten elements arranged one behind the other 
along a North-South baseline"; each element had a "reflecting screen tilted back at 45°."" 

Evans's postgraduate stipend was for three years. The lunar echo research needed fur- 
ther financial support to continue, and that support was to come from the U.S. Air Force. 
The route whereby it was secured reveals the crucial assistance of links with American 
astronomers, as well as the implications that the new source of funding had for 
Manchester University and the British military. Lovell's link in the United States was Fred 
Whipple, a Harvard astronomer, a personal friend, and a colleague in meteor astronomy. 
Whipple reassured Lovell that an Air Force grant did not mean burdensome publishing 
"restrictions," and he offered to act as initial "intermediary" in negotiations.'^ 

Lovell responded that "important aspects of our program were in the process of being 
shelved because of financial stringency and consequent lack of research workers." This sit- 
uation described meteor height determination work, as well as "the lunar echo appara- 
tus," Lovell explained, which was "now in a state where it can be used to measure the total 
electron content of the ionosphere. . . . Here again, the financial situation is such that my 
man-power on this valuable program is reduced to one Second Year research student." If 
extra funds were available from the U.S. Air Force, Lovell envisaged substituting "our pre- 
sent fixed aerial with a steerable one in order that we could do the measurements at all 
times of the day and night — not merely at lunar transit."" 

Further negotiations occurred face to face when Gerald Hawkins, a Jodrell Bank 
astronomer who had moved to the Harvard College Observatory, visited Lovell in October 
1955. In a nice example of a gift exchange cementing scientific networks, Harvard got 

7. On Kaiser as a team leader, see David O. Edge and Michael J. Mulkay, Astronomy Transformed: The 
Emergence of Radio Astronomy in Britain (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976), p. 311; Also see William Murray and 
J.K. Hargreaves, "Lunar Radio Echoes and the Faraday Effect in the Ionosphere," Nature 173 (1954): 944-45. 

8. I.e. Brovme, John V. Evans, J.K. Hargreaves, and William Murray, "Radio Echoes from the Moon," 
Proceedings of the Physical Society B69 (1956) : 901-20. Hargreaves later moved to the High Altitude Observatory of 
the University of Colorado at Boulder, before returning to Lancaster University in Britain. Edge and Mulkay, 
Astronomy Transformed, p. 414. 

9. Ian C. Browne and Tom Kaiser, 'The Radio Echo from the Head of Meteor Trails," foumal of 
Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics A (1953): 1-4. 

10. Butrica, To See the Unseen, p. 23. 

11. Browne, Evans, Hargreaves, and Murray, "Radio Echoes from the Moon," p. 909. 

12. Fred Whipple to Bernard Lovell, letter, 18 May 1955, Jodrell Bank Archives ACC/56/5. 

13. Bernard Lovell to Fred Whipple, letter, 9 September 1955, Jodrell Bank Archives ACC/56/5. Lovell 
also wrote that he was "impressed with the possibilities opened up by the availability of the sixty-foot paraboloid 
in America." 

Beyond the Ionosphere 23 

Hawkins, and Jodrell Bank received Harvard's knowledge of Air Force contacts. Lovell was 
told to contact Jules Aarons of the Electronics Research Directorate of the Air Force 
Cambridge Research Center (AFCRC) in Bedford, Massachusetts.''' Although Aarons 
turned down the proposal to supply Jodrell Bank with a sixty-foot radio telescope for lunar 
echo work, he did indicate Air Force interest in funding staff and operating costs for cer- 
tain meteor and lunar echo research. Lovell requested $10,000 to boost the lunar trans- 
mitter from ten to ninety kilowatts and $5,000 to rebuild a steerable radio telescope to 
replace the transit array." 

Whipple reported that he had heard at Christmas in 1955, "via the grapevine," that an 
AFCRC grant had been awarded to Jodrell Bank. He reassured Lovell that this was good 
news. The Air Force was "really quite easy to work with," so long as reports were in on time, 
and once Jodrell Bank had "gotten started with them, you can count on continuation."'* 
However, Manchester University's bursar, R.A. Rainford, expressed reservations. "I am 
very worried about possible repercussions," particularly about "security," he wrote to 
Lovell. "Permission from the Ministry of Defence," he thought, would be necessary." 

The Ministry of Supply, in fact, already had considered the matter. This ministry was 
responsible for British research on long-range ballistic rockets and their countermeasures 
and already supported meteor research at Jodrell Bank. In a manner that seemed typical 
of his lobbying for support for Jodrell Bank projects, Lovell then tried to use American 
interest to gain further help from the Ministry of Supply. Lovell wrote to Sir Owen 
Wansbrough-Jones, the Ministry of Supply's chief scientific advisor, that the meteor and 
lunar echo programs had both "potential military value" and "very great" fundamental 
interest. Moreover: 

If the experiments were not so severely handicapped by lack of money I xvould have no hesi- 
tation in refusing approaches from America, since I am sure that there will be many minor 
difficulties even if the University felt able to give their permission. One easy way out might 
be for the Ministry of Supply to increase its support to these programs. ^^ 

The Ministry of Supply indeed consented to the AFCRC grant, because a formal con- 
sultative procedure between the two military research bodies already existed. Contracts to 
expand the lunar echo research and to complement the Ministry of Supply-supported 
work on upper atmosphere winds were agreed on."* By February 1956, the Engineering 
Laboratories of the Army Signal Corps joined the AFCRC in developing the Jodrell Bank 
lunar echo apparatus, particularly with respect to "the problem of transatlantic commu- 
nication via the Moon."^" 

Meanwhile, lunar echo research continued. In December 1956, Evans used his rebuilt 
equipment to carry out what he called the "Double Pulse Experiment," the results of 
which, he suggested, showed "that the Moon is very limb 'dark,' and that the effective scat- 
tering region is at the center of the visible dis[k] having a radius of about one-third that 

14. Bernard Lovell to Jules Aarons, letter, 27 October 1955, Jodrell Bank Archives ACC/56/5. 

15. Bernard Lovell to Jules Aarons, letter, 21 December 1955, Jodrell Bank Archives ACC/56/5. 

16. Fred Whipple to Bernard Lovell, letter, 29 December 1955, Jodrell Bank Archives ACC/56/5. 

17. R.A. Rainford to Bernard Lovell, letter, 30 December 1955, Jodrell Bank Archives ACC/56/5. 

18. Bernard Lovell to Owen Wansbrough-Jones, letter, 12 January 1956, Jodrell Bank Archives 

19. Copy of contract AF61(514)-947 for "research of Moon echo phenomena," Jodrell Bank Archives 

20. Memorandum, "Meteor and lunar echo programme," 7 February 1956, Jodrell Bank Archives 

24 Passive Origins 

of the lunar radius."^' Further experiments the following March agreed with this reflection 
hypothesis. The conclusion that only part and not all of the Moon's disk was a strong 
reflector of radio waves had implications for the use of the Moon as a passive communi- 
cation device. 

Already in 1951, teams at the Naval Research Laboratory and the Central Radio 
Propagation Laboratory of the National Bureau of Standards had used the Moon as an 
experimental communications relay. The Naval Research Laboratory transmitted and 
received Morse later that year; it then operated a voice relay in 1954 and teleprinter con- 
nections between Washington, D.C., and San Diego in 1955 and between Washington and 
Oahu in 1956.-' Evans thought that his results raised the possibility of a higher quality 
Moon relay system than expected, because a message would be less troubled by echoes 
reflected from the edges of the Moon's disk. Suggesting that he was curiously unaware of 
the American achievements, Evans wrote: "[S]ince the effective depth of the Moon is 1 
msec or less it becomes possible to use the Moon in a communication circuit with modu- 
lation frequencies up to -1000 c/s. This is probably just sufficient for intelligible speech 
and could be used for teletype."^' 

Lovell immediately used Evans's success to increase U.S. Air Force financial support. 
Because of the "important repercussions on the consideration of the use of the Moon as 
a relay station," he argued, the work was "so important that a doubling of [the original 
support] could easily be justified. "^^ After resolving whether outside authorities, such as 
the U.S. Air Force, had the right to inspect university accounts-"' — a central debate in 
British higher education in the 1950s^'* — an extension was granted, along with renewals of 
the meteor programs." 

In the fall of 1957, the Jodrell Bank's 250-foot-diameter, fully steerable radio telescope 
finally became operational, just in time for the October 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite 
Sputnik. After pressure from the consultant engineer for the instrument, H. Charles 
Husband, Lovell agreed to demonstrate the efficacy of the troubled radio telescope with 
a publicized tracking of both the satellite and its carrier rocket.'^** The radio telescope was 
hurriedly fitted with a small seventy-five-watt transmitter, borrowed from the Air Ministry,^ 
and radar echoes were recorded, first in a test run on the Moon and then from Sputnik 
and its rocket a week after their launch. 

The following autumn, John Evans assisted Lovell in making recordings of voices 
reflected off the Moon using the radio telescope. Lovell incorporated these recordings as 
part of his 1958 Reith Lectures. After the radio broadcast of these talks, J.R. Brinkley, a 

21 . J.V. Evans, 'The Scattering of Radio Waves by the Moon," Proceedings of the Physical Society B70 (1957) : 

22. Butrica, To See the Unseen, pp. 24-25. 

23. Evans, "The Scattering of Radio Waves by the Moon," p. 1112. 

24. Bernard Lovell to Jules Aarons, letter, 28 May 1957, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/35/5. 

25. Jules Aarons to Bernard Lovell, letter, 10 June 1957, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/35/5; R.A. Rainford 
to Bernard Lovell, letter, 18 June 1957. Rainford wrote: "[T]he University has no objection to taking dollars from 
the United States for research programmes which are approved by the Ministry of Supply and the DSIR so long 
as they do not include terms which allow the books of the University to be open for inspecdon by the United 
States Government." 

26. Jon Agar, 'The New Price and Place of University Research: Jodrell Bank in the Economies of Post- 
war British Science," forthcoming. 

27. "Memo on meeting with Colonel Trakowski, Captains Berge and Derrick (USAAF Brussels) on 
Wednesday, 19 March 1958," 19 March 1958, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/35/5. 

28. H. Charles Husband to Bernard Lovell, letter, 8 October 1957, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/31/3. 
Husband wrote: "1 do beg of you for the sake of both our reputations that some immediate joint action be taken." 

29. Bernard Lovell to J.R. Brinkley, letter, 5 December 1958, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/33/4. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 25 

director of Pye Telecommunications Ltd., a British electronics firm based in Cambridge, 
contacted Lovell and expressed interest in developing a lunar relay communications sys- 
tem.'^ Pye offered Jodrell Bank the free loan of equipment. In Pye's view, transatlantic 
short-wave radio links were too "few, unpredictable and distorted." Moreover, although 
the service had improved with the opening of the first transatlantic telephone cable 
(TAT-1) in 1956, submarine cable was no answer to the exponential rise in demand. 
"[SJubmarine cable will not solve all the problems," Brinkley declared. 'The production 
and laying of tens of thousands of miles of such cable is a major undertaking, costing great 
sums of money and taking up much time . . . many of the territories to be reached are 
inland, with no modern trunk routes connecting them to the sea. The only medium which 
offers itself is communication via space. "^' 

Pye installed lunar relay transmitters and receivers at Jodrell Bank^^ and supplied 
receivers for the eighty-four-foot (twenty-eight-meter) AFCRC radio telescope at 
Sagamore Hill, Massachusetts.'" Transmissions from the Jodrell Bank radio telescope using 
a one-kilowatt transmitter succeeded in May 1959. As Lovell wrote later: "Within a short 
time clear voice circuits via the Moon had been established between Jodrell Bank and an 
American telescope, and it was even found possible to transmit recognizable music."''' 
However, Jules Aarons, Herbert Whitney, and Hugh Peters of the AFCRC considered that 
"[a]n increase of approximately 15 db gain must be realized in the overall system before 
good intelligible voice or music can be received. "'' The experiment was reversed in 
November 1959, when Millstone Hill radar at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory transmitted and 
Jodrell Bank received. '•* Plans followed to transmit between Jodrell Bank and Australia and 
between Jodrell Bank and New Zealand." 

In June 1960, Brinkley told the Commonwealth Press Union that after the Jodrell 
Bank lunar relay experiments, he was "left in no doubt that practical circuits via the Moon 
are feasible now and will, in the space of a few years, become economic.""* Although lunar 
relays could only be used at certain times each day, the "vast number of teleprinter chan- 
nels that Moon transmission can make available," argued Brinkley, would "relieve existing 
overloaded short-wave circuits" as well as have uses in "new fields." Pye set out plans for a 
commercial Moon relay communication involving the defense firm Vickers, using small 
thirty-foot (ten-meter) dishes made by Vickers and operating around 7,000 megahertz.*' 

30. J.R. Brinkley to Bernard Lovell, letter, 2 December 1958, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/33/4. Brinkley 
had "discussions with Dr. Ryle and Dr. Smith of the Radio Astronomy Laboratory [in Pye's town, Cambridge] on 
the exploitation of moon reflection." See also A.C. Bernard Lovell, Out of the Zenith: Jodrell Bank, 1957-1970 (New 
York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 212. 

31. Talk byJ.R. Brinkley to Commonwealth Press Union, 'Telecommunications and the Press," ISJune 
1960, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/31/4. 

32. J.R. Brinkley to Bernard Lovell, letter, 8 December 1958, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/33/4. The 
transmitter immediately available had one kilowatt of power, was highly stable, and worked within the band 
100-200 megahertz. The receivers were "mass production and high grade." 

33. Jules Aarons, Herbert Whitney, and Hugh Peters, "Bistatic Transatlantic Moon Reflections," undat- 
ed report, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/67/1. 

34. Lovell, Out of the Zenith, p. 212. 

35. Aarons, Whitney, and Peters, "Bistatic Transadantic Moon Reflections." 

36. John Thomson, "Moon and Venus Radar: Passive Satellite Observations," Technical (Final) Report 
under contract AF61 (052)-172, October 1958-December 1960, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/33/4. 

37. J.R. Brinkley to Bernard Lovell, letter, 7 February 1961, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/31/4; J.R. 
Brinkley to Clifton D. Ellyett, 21 May 1959, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/33/4. J.L. Pawsey of the Division of 
Radiophysics group in Sydney coordinated the Australian end of the experiment. 

38. Brinkley, "Telecommunications and the Press." 

39. J.R. Brinkley to Bernard Lovell, letter, 16 September 1959, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/33/4. 

26 Passive Origins 

A year later, part of the commercial opportunity Pye saw was the manufacture of large 
steerable aerials, in conjunction with aircraft manufacturer Hawker Siddeley/" However, 
Pye abandoned the plans, according to Lovell, when "the successful use of the initial low 
orbit satellites, and later of the stationary orbit satellites removed the commercial incen- 
tive for the Moon communication link."^' The comments of Pye's managing director, 
Brinkley, in October 1961 corroborate this argument. Pye would "hesitate to commit 
ourselves to heavy expenditure on further research and steerable aerials until [Pye was] 
reasonably sure the expenditure would fit into space communication too." And space 
communication to Brinkley meant "space satellites."''^ 

After Evans's departure from Jodrell Bank in 1960 to join MIT's Lincoln Laboratory,^' 
John Thomson took over the leadership of the lunar and other planetary radar experi- 
ments. John E.B. Ponsonby, an Imperial College graduate, soon joined him. Under 
Thomson, lunar radar studies continued through the 1960s and involved, in particular, 
the development of lunar aperture synthesis techniques to produce high-definition radar 
maps of the Moon's surface. This research program declined after the Arecibo radio tele- 
scope began operating in November 1963.'" 

The Great Public Spectacle of British Science 

By far, the biggest public attraction of 1951 was an exhibition at a specially construct- 
ed site on the south bank of the River Thames. This extravaganza was the Festival of 
Britain, a government-planned display of a revival of British culture after the postwar years 
of austerity. The festival's aim was to make "visible a brave New World" — a vision contin- 
ued in the proclamations after the death of George VI in 1952 of a New Elizabethan Age, 
harking back to the days of glory, undisputed British sea power, and the beginnings of 
empire under Elizabeth I.^^ At the festival's center was the Dome of Discovery, designed 
around a "narrative." Viewers were told a story of "creditable British exploration, inven- 
tion and industrial capacity."^* As the highlight to the story, there stood a "radio telescope 
. . . operated from the Dome of Discovery, with its 'dish' aerial mounted on the top of the 
Shot Tower. This was beamed on the Moon and visitors could see on a cathode ray tube 
signals being transmitted there and their reflection back about two and a half seconds 
later."''' The visiting public, of which there were millions, carried away associations 
between radio telescopes and public prestige as early as 1951. 

A second instance of the use of the Moon to demonstrate radio telescopes can be 
found in the planned opening ceremony of the 250-foot Jodrell Bank radio telescope. As 
it neared completion. Sir Charles Renold, chair of the telescope's Site Committee, wrote 
that once the instrument was in suitable "condition" — that is, "capable of being rotated by 
power" and receiving radio signals — then a "dramatic and impressive" public display of 

40. J.R. Brinkley to Bernard Lovell, letter, 9 December 1960, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/31/4. 

41. Lovell, Out of the Zenith, p. 212. 

42. J.R. Brinkley, 'The Economics of Space Communications," 22 September 1961, Jodrell Bank 
Archives CS7/55/2. 

43. John Evans, interview with Andrew Butrica, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, 9 September 
1993, JPL Archives. See also Lovell, Out of the Zenith, pp. 194-96. 

44. See Lovell, Out of the Zenith, p. 207, for Arecibo's effect on the Venus radar program. 

45. Roy Strong, "Prologue," in Mary Banham and Bevis Hillier, eds., A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of 
Britain 1951 (London: Thames & Hudson, 1976), p. 8. 

46. Misha Black, "Architecture, Art and Design in Unison," in Banham and Hillier, eds., A Tonic to the 
Nation, p. 84. 

47. Ian Cox, 'Three Years a-Growing," in Banham and Hillier, eds., A Tonic to the Nation, p. 69. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 27 

the efficacy of the telescope should be performed/" Sir Ben Lockspeiser of the DSIR and 
Sir John Stopford, who was vice-chancellor of Manchester University, judged that the 
Duke of Edinburgh would be a suitably symbolic person to perform the opening ceremo- 
ny/' Lovell suggested a possible display: "[0]n pressing the button . . . the telescope 
[would] sweep over one or more of the remote radio sources in the depths of the uni- 
verse. The resulting signal could be displayed on a number of pen-recording instruments, 
and these could be used to initiate a local series of events such as the unfurling of flags. "^ 
"Even better" than a remote, invisible radio source, Lovell suggested, was a "radar demon- 
stration" using the visible Moon — a "target likely to create an impression."'" 

In any event. Sputnik provided a demonstration that the telescope worked — and with- 
out an opening ceremony. However, radar echoes from the Moon were shown again in 
public at the Reith Lectures. The BBC's annual Reith Lectures embodied the principles 
of its celebrant, the corporation's stern patriarch and defender of elite culture. Lord 
Reith. From the first lecture, given by Bertrand Russell, an invitation was offered each year 
to an authoritative public figure "to undertake some study or original research on a given 
subject and to give listeners the results in a series of broadcasts.'"'^ Lovell was invited, only 
months after Sputnik, to be the Reith lecturer of 1958. He made good use of his series of 
talks, called The Individual and the Universe, to defend the cause of big telescopes.^^ To 
Lovell it was "a mortifying thought that the largest [optical] telescope in Great Britain 
today is considerably smaller than the telescope which Herschel built." However, the 
national shame of "the steady decay of British influence in astronomy" had "been arrest- 
ed by remarkable developments in . . . radio astronomy." He located the current position 
of the "great powers" (the United States and the Soviet Union) as stemming from their 
support of pure science. According to Lovell, "the technical devices which form the basis 
of the present economic and cultural strength of the Great Powers can be traced back 
within a few generations to fundamental scientific investigations which were carried out 
in the abstract, supported without thought of direct practical benefit."'^ 

Radio telescopes were portrayed as a root of national resurgence, feeding on the cul- 
tural association of instrument with nation in the Festival of Britain. To bring the capa- 
bilities of the instrument to its listening audience, in the lecture named "Astronomy and 
the State," Lovell played the recordings of voices relayed via the Moon. 

I'm sorry the echo was so weak, but that's not really important. After all, our transmitter 
had only a thousandth of the power of some of the transmitters which are broadcasting my 
voice now. The important point is that the voice when received back from the Moon is per- 
fectly intelligible and that the telescope was working on wavelengths which could never be 
disturbed by atmospheric or ionospheric conditions. Well the result of that investigation is a 
free gift of the radio astronomer, to all the commercial and military organizations who mil 
no doubt use it in future.^^ 

48. Renold, "Radio Telescope: Opening Date," memorandum, 6 December 1956, Jodrell Bank Archives 

49. Bernard Lovell to John Stopford, letter, 8 December 1954, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/39/5. 

50. Bernard Lovell to Charles Husband, letter, 13 December 1956, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/31/2. 

51. Bernard Lovell to Charles Husband, letter, 4 January 1957, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/31/3. 

52. Preface to Bertrand Russell, Authority and the Individual, BBC Reith Lectures 1948 (London: George 
Allen &Unwin, 1949). 

53. Bernard Lovell, The Individual and the Universe, BBC Reith Lectures 1958 (London: Oxford 
University Press, 1959). 

54. Ibid., pp. 66-67. 

55. Ibid., p. 69. 

28 Passive Origins 

This was no free gift. Instead, it was part of the ongoing campaign by Lovell to hold 
together the projects at Jodrell Bank — in particular, the colossal radio telescope. 

In the same summer of 1951, during the Festival of Britain, the DSIR considered a 
request from Manchester University for £279,140 for a giant, steerable radio telescope. 
The DSIR agreed to fund the project for at least four interlocking reasons. First, it was a 
project that satisfied the civil service's twin desiderata of scientific "timeliness and 
promise." Second, the project was proposed by scientists who had built up extensive cred- 
it within Whitehall during the war by contributing to research programs, such as radar 
(for example, Lovell), or by acting as scientific advisors (Blackett). Third, as John Krige 
has argued in the case of Britain's entry into CERN, the DSIR felt that it faced competi- 
tion and future challenges to its function, as other departments expanded their own 
research programs. Consequently, the DSIR was sympathetic to a prestige project.^'* Finally, 
radio astronomy was identified with British capability and leadership, and the giant radio 
telescope, through its scale and visibility, was promoted as an icon of British progress for 
consumption at home and abroad. Writing about a quality documentary film to be fund- 
ed by the British Foreign Office, a DSIR civil servant enthusiastically stated that it had 
"already proved of greater public interest than any other project" he had handled; "it 
would bring credit to Britain ... it should prove more effective propaganda than the films 
on our social system, housing [or] justice." The radio telescope was, he wrote, the "great 
public spectacle" of British science." 

However, the spectacle soon slid into debt, and the radio telescope had to be reinter- 
preted for different audiences in an effort to secure funds.'** For example, it was "financial 
stringency" that made the U.S. Air Force grants for lunar echo work attractive and that over- 
rode the small doubts about freedom to publish.''" The radio telescope came to dominate 
work at Jodrell Bank. For example, meteors were translated as "nature's missiles," when 
Lovell wrote to defense firms seeking contributions to clear the telescope's debt.*' While 
the promotion of the telescope could prove troublesome in attracting "thousands of visi- 
tors from all over the country,"*' identification with national progress could be mobilized 
in the efforts to pay off the debt. The audio spectacle of voices reflected from the Moon in 
the Reith Lecture "Astronomy and the State" must be understood within this context. 

Working With America 

In parallel with the work supported by the U.S. Air Force discussed above, Jodrell 
Bank also was involved in the satellite program of NASA. Besides the scientific and pres- 
tige interests, collaboration with NASA, mostly involving the use of the big radio telescope 

56. John Krige, "Britain and the European Laboratory Project: 1951-mid-1952," in Armin Hermann, 
John Krige, Ulrike Mersits, and Dominique Pestre, eds., History of CERN (Amsterdam and New York: North- 
Holland Physics Publishing, 1987-1990), vol. 1, pp. 431-74. 

57. Hingston, "Film of the Radio Telescope," memorandum, December 1953, Jodrell Bank Archives 
CS7/15/1. See also Jon Agar, "Screening Science: Spatiality and Authority at Jodrell Bank," in Jon Agar and C.W. 
Smith, eds., Making Space for Science (London: Macmillan, forthcoming). 

58.See Jon Agar, "Making a Meal of the Big Dish: The Construction of the Jodrell Bank Mark I Radio 
Telescope as a Stable Edifice, 1946-57," British Journal for the History of Science 27 (1994): 3-21. 

59. As the Manchester University's bursar wrote in 1958: "Money is now very tight and the only way to 
keep the Station going fully is to make sure that outside 'users' pay their due share of the total costs." J. R. 
Rainford to Bernard Lovell, letter, 7 August 1958, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/33/4. 

60. Bernard Lovell to Espley (GEC), letter, 25 November 1955, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/3/3. 
Likewise, as Lovell wrote to de Ferranti, the Radio Telescope became "really a gigantic radar scanner." Bernard 
Lovell to de Ferranti, letter, 22 November 1955, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/3/3. 

61. Letter, Lovell to Mansfield Cooper, 6June 1957, Jodrell Bank Archives CS7/41/3. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 29 

to track satellites and probes, brought much needed money to Jodrell Bank. One contract 
alone with NASA paid $179,200 to the radio astronomy observatory/^ The techniques 
involved in tracking the two Echo mylar balloons were similar to those used in, and were 
continuous with, work in the Manchester radar program, such as the lunar relay experi- 

The initial response to Echo at Jodrell Bank is revealing. Echo was an attempt to 
"establish communications between the Bell Telephone Laboratory facility at Holmdel, 
New Jersey, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory QPL] facility at Goldstone, California, and the 
250-foot dish facility at Jodrell Bank, England.'"'^ Messages would be transmitted and 
received from the Bell Telephone Laboratory and JPL, but Jodrell Bank would only 
receive. Evans visited the Bell Telephone Laboratory in October 1959 and discussed the 
project with Bell scientists. Summarizing his visit for Lovell on his return, Evans wrote: 
"This experiment seems to be essentially a 'stunt.' There are no good reasons for our par- 
ticipation unless a voice message were to be transmitted, which would give the 'stunt' its 
maximum publicity value."" 

These "stunts," or public displays of scientific spectacle, were highly significant in 
holding together the Jodrell Bank project, so it is not surprising that the proposed Echo 
involvement was viewed in this light. Lovell's response was to "suggest we do nothing 
about the communication part of the business unless we are pressed to do so by NASA. 
We have already promised NASA to help with the preliminary radar tracking."*'^ 

NASA was indeed interested, and Lovell agreed to Jodrell Bank's participation in the 
Echo communication experiment, so long as the observatory received assistance from 
Space Technology Laboratories personnel.** Collaboration with NASA garnered for 
Jodrell Bank public and national prestige, as well as the possibility of technology transfer. 
The same pattern emerged from involvement in Echo 2, when Lovell commented to Pye's 
Brinkley, "I cannot imagine that much other than the establishment of working relations 
ynth the Russians will come out of this experiment, but even for that reason we must obvi- 
ously do our best to join in."*'' 

Government laboratories in Britain were also following the American satellite pro- 
grams closely. Staff at sites such as the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, the 
General Post Office's growing Goonhilly ground station, the Royal Radar Establishment 
in Malvern, and the Signals Research and Development Establishment all suggested their 
own satellite programs'^ or sought to collaborate with the Americans.*" The use of the 
Moon for military communications was carefully examined within the Royal Aircraft 
Establishment,'" along with other passive systems, such as Echo and Project West Ford, that 
promised resistance to jamming and interception." Although one initial reaction to the 
proposal to use Moon relay circuits was that the band width would be too restrictive unless 

62. NASA Contract No. NASw-68, effective date 14 April 1959 Jodrell Bank Archives ACC/53/2. 

63. "NASA SPACECONN Project Echo S42 OPLAN 4-60," report, Jodrell Bank Aichives CS3/9/4. 

64. John Evans, "Notes upon my Visit to Bell Telephone Lbs.," memorandum, October or November 
1959, Jodrell Bank Archives CSl/3/1. 

65. Bernard Lovell to John Evans, internal note, 5 November 1959, Jodrell Bank Archives CSl/3/1. 

66. Bernard Lovell, Out of the Zenith, p. 213. Lovell quotes from his letter to Leonard Jaffe. Space 
Technology Laboratories was a wholly owned subsidiary of Ramo-Wooldridge (later TRW). 

67. Bernard Lovell to J.R. Brinkley, letter, 4 March 1963, Jodrell Bank Archives CS3/13/1. 

68. For example, T.W.G. Dawson of the Royal Aircraft Establishment suggested "hair satellite" and 
"flashing satellites" systems. 

69. The General Post Office was NASA's British partner in such proposed experiments as Relay, TSX, 
and Rebound. The Royal Aircraft Establishment was anxious that it should also gain experience with satellites. 

30 Passive Origins 

suitable frequency multiplexing systems were developed," a "Moon relay service" became 
a Foreign Office "requirement" by 1962" and was probably used elsewhere as a secure link. 


This paper considers both private and public lunar echo experiments at Jodrell Bank. 
The private research was supported initially by British civil and military bodies and later by 
the U.S. Air Force. The military's interest in the experiments was twofold. First, the Faraday 
effect measurements imparted knowledge about the content of the ionosphere through 
which rockets and guided missiles might pass. Second, the Moon could be used as a relay 
in a passive communications system. The military preferred passive systems, because they 
were understood to be less susceptible to jamming, interference, and interception. 

Companies — in this case, Pye — also were interested in the Jodrell Bank lunar echo 
experiments because of their significance for communications. Pye briefly planned a com- 
mercial Moon relay; it seemed to offer competition with transatlantic telephone cables, as 
well as a new service where demand was high, but communications unreliable (Brinkley 
stressed Europe-to-Africa links). It is also possible, given that Pye and its potential collab- 
orators (Vickers and Hawker Siddeley) were defense contractors, that Pye hoped to find 
a market with the military. 

To the scientists at Jodrell Bank, the experiments offered an interesting new field and 
the possibility of gaining support useful in other projects (for example, new equipment in 
the form of transmitters and telescopes, as well as new staff) . The public lunar echo exper- 
iments in these ongoing research programs and in the promotion of radio astronomy in 
Britain — and the radio telescope in particular — ^were certainly national spectacle. This 
spectacle was useful to its sponsors in government in presentations of British progress, as 
well as for the DSIR internally within Whitehall. To scientists such as Lovell, demonstra- 
tions of lunar echoes formed part of the wider campaign to keep the Jodrell Bank project 

70. Lunar echo experiments were carried out at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in the early 1960s to 
prepare techniques for passive satellite communications systems. 

71. John E. Clegg, "A Note on the Use of the Moon and Passive Satellites for Long Distance 
Communication," 22 June 1961, Public Records Office, AVL\, 13 1292. See also the comment in "Military 
Communications — Satellites/Moon," meeting minutes, 20 October 1960: "[I]t was becoming clear that the GPO 
[General Post Office] will confine themselves to active satellites in co-operation with NASA (to ensure adequate 
bandwidth for a civil system) but that NASA would continue with both passive and active satellites. Passive satel- 
lites have some properties of particular importance to possible military communications systems and it was 
important for Ministry of Aviation to study such satellites." 

72. C. Williams, Royal Aircraft Establishment, Radio Department, note, Public Records Office, AVIA, 13 

73. "Satellite Communications Research," meeting minutes, 12 February 1962, Public Records Office, 
AVIA, 13 1292. 

Part II: 

Creating the Global, 
Regional, and National Systems 

The United States and Canada 

Chapter 4 

Something of Value: Echo and the 

Beginnings of Satellite 


by Donald C. Elder 

The worid has changed in many ways since 1960, but few areas have undergone as rad- 
ical a transformation as the field of telecommunications. From the virtually instantaneous 
transmission of television images to the relaying of telephone messages across vast dis- 
tances, people have access to capabilities only dreamed of 35 years ago. If the world is 
indeed becoming a "global village," the revolution in the field of telecommunications is 
in large measure responsible for that development. 

Although a number of technological innovations help explain this progress, the sig- 
nificant breakthrough involved the advent of communications satellites. They display a 
remarkable degree of technological sophistication today, yet it is instructive to note that 
they also have undergone a process of evolution. Indeed, the first such device seems 
almost simplistic in comparison to the communications satellites of today. That satellite, 
christened Echo, was in fact a mylar sphere coated with vaporized aluminum, and it could 
reflect only signals directed at it. Still, the story of Echo I does have great significance in 
the history of today's telecommunications revolution. It proved the viability of the concept 
of the communications satellite and allowed interested parties to conduct experiments 
that presaged the uses to which others would apply the ensuing generations of satellites. 

The Theoretical Basis 

The story of Echo actually begins during the days just after the end of the World War 
II. In October 1945, Arthur C. Clarke, already on his way to becoming one of the preem- 
inent figures of science fiction, wrote an article suggesting that a device placed in orbit 
around the Earth could relay messages transmitted to it from one point on the planet to 
another.' His idea found resonance with others, who in various forms kept the concept of 
a communications satellite alive during the following few years. Indeed, individuals in a 
number of U.S. government agencies noted in reports the value of such a venture to both 
the public and private sectors of the country.^ However, the postwar Truman administra- 
tion never gave any official backing for the development of communications satellites, 
thus keeping the concept in the theoretical realm. 

1. Arthur C. Clarke, "Extra-Terrestrial Relays: Can Rocket Stations Give World-Wide Radio Coven^e?," 
Wireless Wodd 51 (October 1945): 305-08. 

2. U.S. Senate, "Policy Planning for Space Communications," Staff Report Prepared for the Committee on 
Aeronautical and Space Sciences, 86th Cong., 2d sess. (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1960), 
p. 3. 



Creating S\stems: United States and Canada 

Figure 9 

Echo balloon fully inflated for testing purposes. (Courtesy of NASA, photo no. 60-E-6) 

This situation began to change in 1952. During that year, John Robinson Pierce, who 
was the director of research at the American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) Bell 
Telephone Laboratories, wrote a story for Astounding Science Fiction, in which he discussed 
the potential benefits of communications satellites.'' In 1954, he further refined his think- 
ing on the subject in a speech he delivered to the annual meeting of the Institute of Radio 
Engineers. In this address. Pierce examined possible communications satellite configura- 
tions and suggested that such a device could either actively repeat or passively reflect sig- 
nals transmitted to it. An active repeater would require an internal power source to allow 
the retransmission of signals broadcast to it. While noting that this type of satellite had 
many advantages. Pierce concluded that it possessed one highly significant drawback: the 
limited lifetime of power sources available at the time would give such a device only a 
relatively brief period of usefulness. For that reason, active repeater satellites were imprac- 
tical for private industry as an alternative to existing methods of long-distance communi- 
cations relays. 

Having rejected the viability of active repeater satellites because of technological lim- 
itations. Pierce turned to the concept of passive reflectors. Such a satellite would have no 
need for an internal power source, making it of more immediate utility than an active 
repeater. After establishing the superiority of the concept. Pierce then examined the 
potential configurations for a passive reflector. He rejected the practicality of both a plane 
mirror and a corner reflector for technical reasons. Instead, Pierce concentrated on the 

3. J J. Coupling, "Don't Write: Telegraph," Astounding Science Fidion 49 (March 1952): 82-96. John 
Robinson Pierce often used the pseudonym 'JJ- Coupling," an electrical engineering term, for his writings in 
the field of science fiction. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 35 

concept of a uniformly reflective sphere. First, if such a satellite 100 feet (about thirty-one 
meters) in diameter were placed in an orbit 1 ,000 miles ( 1 ,600 kilometers) above the sur- 
face of the Earth, it would afford the best possibility for successfully relaying messages. A 
sphere of that size would not require a special alignment in orbit to reflect signals. 
Second, its characteristics would allow the satellite to relay the widest range of signal fre- 
quencies from one point on the Earth to another. Pierce concluded his speech by sug- 
gesting aluminum foil as a possible material for the construction of the satellite, as long 
as "one could inflate [the sphere] gently." 

Pierce's speech received a favorable response. Encouraged by individuals in the audi- 
ence to publish his presentation, he submitted a modified version to the journal Jet 
Propulsion, which published his paper in its issue of April 1955 — an issue whose focus was 
on possible outer space ventures. In this article, Pierce correctly predicted all of the com- 
ponents that would make up the successful Project Echo venture five years later, but he 
also noted the one factor that prevented the immediate implementation of his proposal: 
such a venture would need information "from rocket men about constructing and plac- 
ing satellites" in orbit.^ Indeed, at the time, no government on the Earth had committed 
itself to launching such a craft. Until that situation changed, the prospects for communi- 
cations satellites remained dim. 

The Crucial Breakthrough 

Nonetheless, in April 1955, official backing for a satellite was closer than Pierce could 
have imagined. For some time. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had known that the intel- 
ligence-gathering agencies of the United States would soon have the ability to photograph 
the Earth with remarkable resolution from high altitude; his advisors also informed him 
that a satellite had excellent potential as a platform for basing such an observation system. 
Eisenhower understood, however, that under existing practice, any nation could consider 
a satellite passing over its territory as an invasion of its airspace and therefore could legal- 
ly shoot the surveillance satellite down — if it possessed that capability. Unless the United 
States could somehow convince the nations of the world to regard satellites as having a 
different legal status than airplanes, the value of surveillance satellites would be severely 

At this critical juncture, the world's scientific community had offered Eisenhower a 
possible way to establish the principle of legal satellite overflight. To enhance the gather- 
ing of useful data during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) 1957-58, these individ- 
uals in 1954 called on the governments of the world to launch satellites for conducting 
scientific experiments. American scientists did not hesitate to propose such a venture to the 
Eisenhower administration. Eager to provide a precedent for the overflight of other 
nations by surveillance satellites, Eisenhower approved the launching of an American sci- 
entific satellite in conjunction with the IGY. The official announcement came in July 1955.^ 

Soon after, the American coordinators of the IGY formed a committee to select exper- 
iments to include in the payload of a venture named Vanguard. One proposal presented 
to this group came from William J. O' Sullivan, Jr., of the National Advisory Committee for 
Aeronautics (NACA) . He envisioned ejecting a small balloon out of the final stage of a 
launch vehicle, inflating it, and then observing the effects of atmospheric drag on the 

4. John Robinson Pierce, "Orbital Radio Relays,"/^ Propulsion 25 (April 1955): 77-78, quotation from 
p. 78. 

5. For a full examination of Eisenhower's decision to initiate an American satellite program, see R. 
Cargill Hall, The Origins of U.S. Space Policy: Eisenhower, Open Skies, and Freedom of Space," Colloquy 14 
(December 1993): 5-6, 19-24. 

36 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

sphere. O'Sullivan suggested that this balloon could consist of either metallic foil or plas- 
tic with a metallic coating. The committee considered his proposal and shortly gave its 

O'Sullivan and a small staff began work on the balloon project. While developing a 
prototype of the 30-inch (75-centimeter) sphere, O'Sullivan began to realize that larger 
balloons placed in orbit would offer greater opportunities for experimentation. He there- 
fore began work on a balloon 100 feet (about 31 meters) in diameter, and in 1958 a pic- 
ture of this larger sphere began to appear in journals and magazines. As fate would have 
it, John Pierce saw a copy of this picture and immediately realized that a sphere of that 
size met precisely the requirements of the passive reflector he had proposed back in 1954. 
After securing the backing of AT&T, he contacted Hugh Dryden, the director of NACA, 
and suggested the possibility of using the larger version of the balloon for a communica- 
tions experiment. Dryden gave his enthusiastic approval; he then asked O'Sullivan for his 
opinion. After deliberating for two days, he, too, responded affirmatively. Thus, in April 
1958, two separate and distinct ideas for utilizing a sphere placed into the Earth's orbit 
had become one. 

The Technological Component 

Certain developments soon aided the likelihood of a successful communications satel- 
lite venture. In July 1958, the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), William H. 
Pickering, offered the services of his institution to Pierce for his venture. JPL already had 
begun work at the Goldstone Dry Lake in southern California on a parabolic antenna 
85 feet (26 meters) in diameter to track and receive telemetry from the military's Pioneer 
probes. This so-called HA-DEC antenna, so named because its axes were arranged to 
measure angles in terms of local hour angle (HA) and declination (DEC), could receive 
messages using the proposed passive reflector sphere.' JPL soon constructed a second 
85-foot (26-meter) antenna at the Goldstone location to broadcast signals as well.** 

Meanwhile, Rudolph Kompfner, an associate of Pierce at AT&T who had aided him 
in developing the communications experiment proposal, found money in the budget of 
that corporation in late 1958 to build a large, steerable horn antenna at Holmdel, New 
Jersey, for receiving messages relayed from outer space. ^ AT&T later arranged for the con- 
struction of a transmitting antenna, giving the corporation the same two-way capability 
that JPL enjoyed. Finally, Pierce and Kompfner recognized that the perfection of the 
maser (an acronym for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) 
would reduce the power levels needed for the successful transmission of audible radio 
waves. The maser was a new type of solid-state microwave amplif^ng device vaunted by 
one author as "the greatest single technological step in radio physics for many years" and 
had become available outside the laboratory only earlier in 1958.'" From a technical stand- 
point, then, as 1958 drew to a close, Pierce's balloon venture seemed very promising." 

6. Don Murray, "O'Sullivan's Wonderful Lead Balloon," Popular Science 178 (February 1961): 74-77. 

7. Calvin Tomkins, "Woomera Has It!," New Yorker 39 (21 September 1963): 85; William R. Corliss, A 
History of the Deep Space Network, CR-151915 (Washington, DC: NASA, 1976), pp. 16-17, 20-25. 

8. Corliss, Deep Space Network, pp. 25-27. 

9. Tomkins, "Woomera Has It!," p. 87. 

10. Quotation is from J.V. Jelley, 'The Potentialities and Present Status of Masers and Parametric 
Amplifiers in Radio Astronomy," Proceedings ofthelEEEbl (1963): 31, 36, esp. 30. For the invention of the maser, 
see Paul Forman, "Invendng the Maser in Postwar America," Osiris ser. 2, vol. 7 (1992): 105-34. 

11. Donald C. Elder, Out From Behind the Eight-Ball: A History of Project Echo, AAS History Series, vol. 16 
(San Diego: American Astronaudcal Society, 1995), pp. 25-26. 

Bevond the Ionosphere 


Figure 10 
The Bell Telephone Laboratories satellite communications center at Crawford Hill in Holmdel, New Jersey, circa 1960. The 
steerable horn antenna used for receiving is to the right, while the sixty-foot (twenty-meter) transmitting dish is in the upper left 
comer. (Courtesy of NASA, photo no. 227031) 

Those associated with the communications satellite project soon found reason to 
rejoice in the political realm as well. NACA had approved the venture in April 1958, but 
that organization ceased to exist on 1 October 1958 because of a process of events set in 
motion months earlier. Spurred by the launch of Sputnik, the world's first satellite, by the 
Soviet Union in October 1957, President Eisenhower sought to demonstrate his adminis- 
tration's commitment to the development of a vibrant American space program. 
Accordingly, the president advocated the creation of a civilian space agency, the National 
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). As part of the legislation authorizing 
NASA, Congress authorized the new agency to absorb NACA. The demise of the original 
governmental champion of the communications satellite project momentarily left the fate 
of the project in doubt. However, T. Keith Glennan, the first NASA administrator, saw 
merit in the concept and convinced the Eisenhower administration to give it official 
approval. Glennan made this news public on 19 February 1959.'^ 

12. "Highlights of the Inflatable Satellite Program, 
Echo, NASA History Office, Washington, DC. 

undated, Folder XII, Satellites, Echo — Project 

38 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Aware of the work under way on the signal transmitting and receiving equipment, and 
secure in the knowledge that the government stood solidly behind the project, the indi- 
viduals interested in the communications satellite project turned their attention in 1959 
to the progress being made on the construction of the sphere. O' Sullivan had given the 
contract for the sphere to the General Mills Company. At the time, General Mills was a 
leader in the field of research balloon manufacturing, and that firm had built a prototype 
of the passive reflector sphere by the summer of 1959. General Mills, however, had never 
fabricated a balloon of that size before, and O'Sullivan had no facility large enough to 
observe the results of inflation procedures under the conditions that would exist at an alti- 
tude of 1 ,000 miles ( 1 ,600 kilometers) . Until NASA could conduct suborbital tests with the 
General Mills balloon, he would not know whether the sphere could maintain its integri- 
ty in orbit.'" 

When NASA finally conducted the first test in October 1959, the results confirmed 
O'Sullivan's worst fears: the balloon disintegrated upon inflation, creating a dazzling spec- 
tacle of sparkling light in the sky over the eastern coast of the United States. General Mills 
in fact had warned O'Sullivan beforehand of a potential problem. The Minnesota com- 
pany informed him that it did not believe the substance its technicians had used to bind 
the 82 separate panels of the balloon together would allow the sphere to withstand the 
tremendous pressure generated by rapid inflation in a near vacuum. The first test dra- 
matically validated the concern of General Mills and put the future of the project in 

As it turned out. General Mills already had put into motion a plan to rectify the prob- 
lem. Before the first suborbital test, the firm had asked a balloon-making rival, the G.T. 
Schjeldahl Company of Northfield, Minnesota, for help in creating an effective sealing 
procedure. After six weeks of intensive study, G.T. Schjeldahl himself, the company's 
founder, developed a satisfactory adhesive, and one of his employees devised a technique 
for applying it to the panels of the disassembled sphere.'^ After inconclusive results dur- 
ing two subsequent suborbital missions, a sphere built through the combined efforts of 
General Mills and the G.T. Schjeldahl Company performed flawlessly in a test flight on 
1 April 1960. Now confident about the quality of the product, NASA officials began to 
plan for a full-scale mission. 

The Dawning of a New Age 

NASA scheduled the launch of the giant balloon for May 1960. The rocket left Cape 
Canaveral successfully, but control jets in the second stage did not function properly. 
NASA officials surmised that the Thor-Delta rocket had plunged into the Atlantic Ocean. 
Nonetheless, they did not let the failure prevent them from initiating plans to schedule 
another launch immediately."* After one additional successful suborbital launch, NASA 
selected August 1960 for the next attempt. 

This mission, after a number of postponements, did succeed. The Thor-Delta 
performed flawlessly, lifting the payload on the morning of 12 August 1960 to the desired 

13. DuPont Magazine 53 (May-June 1961): 14. 

14. William J. O'Sullivan, Jr., interview with Edward Morse, 28 August 1964, "Historical Origins of Echo 
I," William J. O'Sullivan Jr., file, NASA History Office. 

15. Sheldahl Company, The Fine Line, special ed., 1985, pp. 4-7, G. T. Schjeldahl Papers, Minnetonka, 
Minnesota. After G.T. Schjeldahl severed his Ues with the G.T. Schjeldahl Company, its directors changed both 
the spelling and the name of the firm. 

16. NASA Statement to the Press, 13 May 1960, Documentation Echo Folder, NASA History Office. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 

altitude. The ejection mechanism in the final stage sent the tightly folded collapsed 
sphere into the near vacuum of the Earth's orbit; then a combination of chemicals inside 
the balloon underwent a process of sublimation and released gas that gently inflated the 
sphere. The satellite — at that point officially named Echo by NASA — had achieved orbit." 

The crews at Holmdel and Goldstone learned of the successful deployment of the 
sphere in orbit and immediately prepared for the first communications experiment. 
When both stations located the satellite in the sky, the JPL facility at Goldstone sent the 
first message. With remarkable clarity, Bell Telephone Laboratories personnel heard the 
voice of President Eisenhower, who previously had recorded a short speech for this occa- 
sion."* In this dramatic fashion, a new era in the history of communications began. 

In the days following the launch, many different groups conducted experiments using 
Echo. JPL and Bell Telephone Laboratories successfully conducted the first two-way trans- 
mission using a satellite; after the California team again broadcast the message of 
President Eisenhower, the Holmdel personnel transmitted a recording supplied by Senate 
Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson. The Collins Radio Company completed a live, two- 
way radio conversation between its home location in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a subsidiary 
in Richardson, Texas. This firm also turned a teletype machine on by means of a signal 
bounced off the sphere. The Naval Research Laboratory joined with the original partici- 
pants to "double bounce" a message from Maryland to New Jersey, then to California. 
Clearly, Echo had allowed interested parties to demonstrate the potential benefits of a 
communications satellite.'* 

While the results to that point would have been enough to satisfy all concerned with 
Project Echo, two later experiments gave them an even greater appreciation of what a 
communications satellite could offer in the future. First, on 15 August 1960, JPL and Bell 
Telephone Laboratories project managers used the satellite, and their transmitting and 
receiving equipment, in the words of a Bell publicity release, to engage in a "historic [tele- 
phone] conversation, exchanging pleasantries and carrying on small talk."^" Second, in 
April 1962, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Air Force joined in a 
successful effort to relay a live television transmission via Echo. With good reason, then, 
but perhaps with excessive modesty, too. Pierce later would refer to the satellite as "some- 
thing of value." 

Echo in Retrospect 

Even at the time of the successful relaying of television signals, NASA officials realized 
that technological developments had made the passive repeater satellite obsolete. Indeed, 
in July 1962, NASA launched Telstar, an active repeater satellite. People soon remembered 
the original communications satellite more for its visibility to the naked eye at night than 
for the experiments individuals used it to conduct. The national news media noted the 
demise of Echo in May 1968, as it returned through the Earth's atmosphere, but recog- 
nized in their coverage that events had long since stripped it of its relevance.^' 


1 7. Elder, Out From Behind the Eight-Ball, pp. 99-1 1 0. 

18. Washington Star, 14 August 1960. p. 9; New York Herald Tribune, 13 August 1960, p. 7. 

19. Elder, pp. 113-116. 

20. Bell News Release, 15 August 1960, Folder XXII, Satellites Echo I, NASA History Office. 

21. NASA News Release, No. 75-217, 10 August 1975, Folder XXII, Satellites Echo I, NASA History 

40 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Still, it is important to remember that a successful communications satellite effort, 
however simple in design and execution, was necessary for individuals to plan a more 
ambitious generation of devices. The telecommunications industry today may be "the 
world's largest economic sector," as the Los Angeles Times has proclaimed, but few com- 
panies would have allocated resources for a field that had yielded no apparent hope of 
success until August 1960.'*^ Viewing the results yielded by Echo, individuals could envision 
more ambitious telecommunications projects for the future. Echo, then, represents the 
proverbial single step in a journey in which the world is still participating today. 

22. Los Angeles Times, 26 July 1994, p. H-2. 

Chapter 5 

Project Echo, Goldstone, and 
Holmdel: Satellite Communications 
as Viewed From the Ground Station^ 

by Craig B. Waff 

As the geostationary orbit reaches saturation, and as carriers begin to look again at 
sateUites in medium and low orbits, such as the proposed Iridium system, the pioneering 
work of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories 
in acquiring and tracking the first Echo balloon satellite has taken on new meaning and 
importance. Donald Elder has provided an overall description of the Echo project, which 
includes the design, construction, testing, and launching of the inflatable balloon, as well 
as the political impact of the experiment.'- The focus here is on the acquisition and posi- 
tioning of the ground equipment necessary to undertake the experiment; the conduct of 
preliminary acquisition, tracking, and communication tests prior to launch; the perfor- 
mance of operations immediately after launch; and the conclusions reached by engineers 
of the two main participant organizations. Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey and 
JPL in southern California.' 

In an October 1958 internal technical memorandum outlining "A Program of 
Research Directed Toward Transoceanic Communication by Means of Satellites," Bell 
Telephone Laboratories engineers John Robinson Pierce and Rudolf Kompfner suggest- 
ed that a worthwhile preliminary step would be the establishment of "an experimental 
narrow-band communication link . . . between two points on the American mainland, far 
enough apart to preclude the possibility of any other signal path." The main objectives of 
the experiment were to observe atmospheric refractive effects, to study the influence of 
satellite shape, and to make signal-to-noise and bandwidth measurements from 100-foot- 
diameter spheres launched into orbit. Pierce and Kompfner believed that the required 

1 . Most of the research for this paper was conducted as part of the author's work from 1989 to 1992 as 
Deep Space Network contract historian at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. 

2. See Donald C. Elder, "Something of Value: Echo I and the Beginnings of Satellite Communications," 
chapter 4 in this publication; Donald C. Elder, Out From Behind the Eight-Ball: A History of Project Echo, AAS History 
Series, Vol. 16 (San Diego: American Astronautical Society, 1995). 

3. The overall roles played by JPL and Bell Telephone L.aboratories in Project Echo are summarized 
in Walter K. Victor and Robertson Stevens, 'The Role of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Project Echo," IKE 
Transactions on Space Electronics and Telemetry SET-7 (March 1961): 20-28; William C.Jakes, Jr., "Participation of 
Bell Telephone Laboratories in Project Echo and Experimental Results," The Bell System Technical Journal AO (July 
1961): 975-1028; William C.Jakes, Jr., and Walter K. Victor, 'Tracking Echo I at Bell Telephone Laboratories and 
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory," in H.C. van de Hulst, C. de Jager, and A.F. Moore, eds.. Space Research II, 
Proceedings of the Second International Space Science Symposium, Florence, April 10-14 1961 (Amsterdam: North- 
Holland Publishing Company, 1963), pp. 206-14. JPL reported its involvement in Project Echo more fully in a 
series of progress reports appearing in issues (nos. 6 and 37-1 to 37-6) of its bimonthly Space Prograins Summary 
series covering the period from 15 September 1959 to 15 November 1960, as well as in its final report on the pro- 
ject, Robertson Stevens and Walter K. Victor, eds., The Goldstone Station Communications and Tracking System for 
Prq;>rt£f/io, JPL Technical Report No. 32-59 (Pasadena, CA:JPL, 1 December 1960). 


42 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

ground equipment for the experiment would be two sixty-foot steerable antennas con- 
nected to high-power modulators and amplifiers, low-noise receivers, band compressors, 
servo-tracking apparatus, and computer facilities/ "[T]o interest some agency that could 
launch such a [communications] satellite" and "to convince ourselves and others of the 
value of such a passive satellite experiment," Pierce and Kompfner presented a paper 
based on their proposal to the National Symposium on Extended Range and Space 
Communication, held in Washington, D.C., on 6 and 7 October 1958. That paper subse- 
quently was published in March 1959.^ Their proposal, of course, was the genesis of 
NASA's Project Echo. 

Recruitment of a Partner and Site Selection 

Performing the passive satellite communications experiment called for in the Pierce- 
Kompfner proposal required two antenna stations, one on each coast of the North 
American continent. Their proposal did not suggest any specific sites for the two stations. 
Given their belief that the Bell system would play a leading role in the future development 
of satellite communications, however, they undoubtedly desired that the east coast station 
be located at one of the Bell Telephone Laboratories facilities, all of which were in New 

When they wrote their proposal. Pierce and Kompfner already had in mind both a 
desirable site and an interested partner organization for the required west coast station. 
At an Air Force-sponsored meeting on communications satellites held at Woods Hole, 
Massachusetts, on 13-14 July 1958, Pierce had discussed the feasibility of using 100-foot- 
diameter (about thirty-one-meter-diameter) balloons as part of a "passive satellite relay 
system." Among the conference attendees was William H. Pickering, the director of JPL, 
at that time an Army contract facility operated by the California Institute of Technology 
(Caltech). Following Pierce's talk, Pickering "raised the question of using the currendy 
proposed balloon experiments for some initial work on the possibility of satellite relay sys- 
tems."*^ Pickering was referring to the twelve-foot-diameter (about four-meter-diameter) 
orbiting balloons conceived by William J. O'SuUivan, Jr., an engineer at the Langley 
Memorial Aeronavitical Laboratory (under NASA, it became the Langley Research 
Center) in Hampton, Virginia — a facility of the Narional Advisory Committee for 
Aeronautics (NACA) — as a means of measuring air resistance in the Earth's upper atmos- 
phere. The U.S. Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) 
had approved that balloon project in late March 1958 for launches in late 1958 and in 
1959, and JPL was supplying the upper stages for the Juno II launch vehicles.' 

4. John Robinson Pierce and Rudolf Kompfner, "A Program of Research Directed Toward Transoceanic 
Communication by Means of Satellites," manuscript. Technical Memorandum MM-58-1 35-24, 22 September 1958, 
p. 20, Vol. KK, Filecase No. 20564, AT&T Archives, Warren, NJ. The author is grateful to Sheldon Hochheiser, 
AT&T archivist, for assistance in locating this paper and granting permission to quote from it. 

5. John Robinson Pierce and Rudolf Kompfner, 'Transoceanic Communication by Means of 
SzteWites," Proceedings of the IRE 47 (March 1959): 372-380. 

6. William H. Pickering, "Notes on Satellite Conference, July 13-14, 1958," 22 July 1958, doc. no. 15, 
microfilm roll 33-4, JPL Archives, Pasadena, CA. 

7. The launch attempts of the twelve-foot-diameter balloons were made on 22 October 1958 and 14 
August 1959, but both ended in failure. See Elder, Out From Behind the Eight-Ball, pp. 45, 65. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 43 

Pierce, who had known Pickering since the mid-1930s when they were fellow gradu- 
ate students at Caltech, quickly informed his former classmate of the proposal that he had 
already made to NACA director Hugh Dryden to use a 100-footKiiameter version of 
O'Sullivan's balloon for a passive communications satellite experiment. Pierce recalled 
many years later that Pickering agreed at the Air Force conference that such an experi- 
ment "would be a profitable one" and "offered his encouragement and support."** The 
support that Pickering undoubtedly offered was the use of an eighty-five-foot-diameter 
(twenty-six-meter-diameter) polar-mounted antenna that JPL had ordered from Blaw 
Knox in April 1958. JPL installed the so-called Pioneer antenna in July near Goldstone 
Dry Lake in California's Mojave Desert in support of two ARPA-approved Army lunar 
probe launches (subsequently named Pioneers 3 and 4) in late 1958 and early 1959. 

Pickering and his colleagues at JPL, unlike their counterparts at Bell Telephone 
Laboratories, had litde interest in the future development of communications satellites, 
but they foresaw that much of the additional ground-support equipment that JPL would 
need to conduct the passive satellite communications experiments at Goldstone could be 
applied subsequently to the tracking of, and communication with, space probes. By early 
1958, JPL already was hoping to devote itself to those activities in the post-Sputnik era. In 
January 1959, JPL proposed to NASA a list of space probes that called for launches of a 
circumlunar flight in early July 1960 and two flybys of Mars in mid-October 1960. JPL par- 
ticipadon in a NASA-sponsored passive satellite communications experiment in particular 
might enable its engineers to acquire more quickly the transmitter that eventually would 
be needed for issuing commands to probes to perform mid-course corrections and for 
determining probe positions more accurately. 

The use of the Goldstone antenna in the proposed satellite communications experi- 
ment became more feasible during the latter half of 1958 as a result of the following three 

• The formation on 1 October 1958 of NASA, the new civilian space agency, as well as 
the appointment of Dryden, an enthusiastic supporter of Pierce's proposal who had 
played an active role in securing ARPA approval of the project, as NASA's first deputy 

• The transfer, probably with Dryden's encouragement, of the satellite communications 
experiment (soon to receive the name "Echo") in early October from ARPA to NASA 

• The transfer in early December 1958 of JPL from the Army to NASA 

At a meeting on 22 January 1959, representatives from NASA headquarters, Bell 
Telephone Laboratories, and JPL negotiated an agreement that outiined the equipment 
that the latter two organizations would be responsible for acquiring, installing, and test- 
ing prior to the initial launch attempt of the Echo balloon satellite, then tentatively sched- 
uled for September 1959. At that meeting. Bell Telephone Laboratories engineers 
announced that they planned to erect, at a site known as Crawford Hill in Holmdel, New 
Jersey, a twenty-foot-by-twenty-foot-aperture (a six-meter-by-six-meter-aperture) horn- 
reflector antenna. Horn antennas were known for their demonstrated low-noise properties.® 

8. John Robinson Pierce, The Beginnings of Satellite Communication (San Francisco: San Francisco Press, 
1968), pp. 11-12. 

9. A description of this antenna is given by A.B. Crawford, D.C. Hogg, and L.E. Hunt, "A Horn- 
Reflector Antenna for Space Communication," The Bell System Technical Journal 40 (1961): 1095-1116. The 
authors noted that this type of antenna had originated at Bell Telephone Laboratories in the early 1940s. The 
antenna employed in the Echo experiment later gained fame as the instrument used by Arno Penzias and 
Robert Wilson in 1965 to discover the cosmic microwave background radiation. 

44 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

This particular horn antenna was to receive signals from Goldstone, while a sixty-foot- 
diameter (eighteen-meter-diameter) parabolic antenna purchased from the D.S. Kennedy 
Company would transmit signals to Goldstone via the Echo balloon. Possibly because of 
funding uncertainties in early January 1959, JPL indicated that it would both transmit and 
receive signals through duplexing, using the existing eighty-five-foot-diameter (twenty-six- 
meter) polar-mounted antenna at Goldstone.'" JPL project funding was uncertain because 
at that time NASA was operating on funds transferred from the Department of Defense 
and other agencies and was in the midst of formulating its first budget request for new 
funds from Congress. 

After NASA's budgetary situation began to stabilize in the early months of 1959, how- 
ever, JPL engineers opted, as did their Bell Telephone Laboratories counterparts, to use 
separate antennas for receiving and transmitting. For the second (transmitting) antenna, 
they chose an azimuth-elevation (Az-El) , rather than polar, mounting. This choice was not 
dictated by Echo requirements. Rather it resulted from a desire by JPL engineers 
Robertson Stevens (chief of the Communication Elements Research Section), William 
Merrick (in charge of antenna construction), and Walter Victor (chief of the 
Communications Systems Research Section) to make a comparative study between the two 
types of mounts, as well as a scale study for larger antennas that the JPL engineers hoped 
to design and construct in the future for supporting more sophisticated and more distant 
space probes. Early design studies had indicated that an Az-El-mounted large antenna 
would cost less and weigh less than a polar-mounted antenna built to the same specifica- 
tions of maximum frequency, wind-loading design, and tracking rates. JPL engineers also 
were aware that counterweight problems inherent in the polar-mount configuration prob- 
ably would make it easier to scale up an Az-El-mounted antenna to a size comparable to 
the 210-foot-diameter (sixty-four-meter-diameter) Commonwealth Scientific and 
Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) radio telescope then under construction at 
Parkes, Australia. 

Unlike the situation at Holmdel, where the two Bell Telephone Laboratories anten- 
nas would be in sight of each other, JPL engineers in 1958 had selected a site at Goldstone 
for an anticipated transmitter antenna that would be approximately seven miles from the 
Pioneer antenna and separated from the latter by a range of intervening mountains. The 
site had been chosen to preclude the possibility of the transmitter generating radio inter- 
ference that might prevent the reception of weak radio signals from space probes at the 
receiver antenna. 

JPL's prior and continuing involvement in space probe communications and tracking 
strongly influenced the selection of frequencies for the Echo experiment. JPL and Bell 
engineers chose 960.05 megahertz for east-to-west transmissions, because the JPL receiver 
at Goldstone was operating at this frequency in support of the Pioneer lunar program. For 
the west-to-east transmissions, they selected 2,390 megahertz because "it was the correct 
frequency band for future satellite and space-probe experiments."" In fact, the radio fre- 
quency used by NASA's Deep Space Network (managed by JPL and comprised initially of 
antennas at Goldstone; Woomera, Australia; and Hartebeesthoek near Johannesburg, 
South Africa) changed from 960 to 2,390 megahertz in the mid-1960s. 

10. The agreement reached at the 22 January 1959 meeting is outlined in Rudolf Kompfner, "A 
Proposed Plan for aJointJPL-BTL Experiment in Communication by Means of a Passive Satellite," 9 February 
1959, attached to Rudolf Kompfner to Leonard Jaffe (chief of the Communications Satellite Program in NASA's 
Office of Advanced Technology), 10 February 1959 (copy to Pickering), "Satellite Tracking 1959" section, micro- 
film roll 614-93, JPL Archives. 

11. Victor and Stevens, 'The Role of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory," p. 22. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 


Figure 11 

The twenty-six-meter Az-El dish antenna built for Project Echo by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Goldstone Dry Lake 
in the Mojave Desert, about 160 kilometers from the laboratory in Pasadena, California. JPL also used an extant twenty-six- 
meter HA-DEC antenna, erected in late 1 958 to track and receive telemetry from the military 's Pioneer probes, to communicate 
via the Echo balloon. (Courtesy of NASA) 

Designing the Acquisition, Tracking, and 
Communications Systems 

As noted previously, the principal objective of Project Echo was to demonstrate the 
feasibility of long-range communications using a reflecting sphere as a passive satellite. To 
accomplish this objective, JPL and Bell engineers had to develop systems that could not 
only perform the communications experiment itself, but also rapidly acquire the fast- 
moving satellite soon after it rose above the western horizon and track it during subse- 
quent periods of visibility. Indeed, in the view of JPL engineers, the acquisidon and 
tracking of Echo would be more challenging than the communications aspect of the 
project. Once the acquisition and tracking problems were solved, according to JPL's 
Walter Victor and Robertson Stevens, "the communications problem would be no more 
difficult than a laboratory experiment with comparable signal and noise powers." Not sur- 
prisingly, therefore, most of the new equipment procured by JPL for the project was used 
for acquisition and tracking.'^ By comparison, the acquisition and tracking of later geosta- 
tionary satellites were in certain ways less daunting, because these essentially remained sta- 
tionary in the sky. 

At its Goldstone facility, JPL engineers developed for the Echo experiment two meth- 
ods of acquisition: "slaving" the antennas to a precalculated pointing program using digital 
techniques and local optical sighting. They also developed three methods of tracking: 

12. Ibid. 

46 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

digital slave, optical, and automatic radar. When the digital-slave method (for both acqui- 
sition and tracking) was required, the NASA Minitrack network of stations generated and 
transmitted primary tracking data to a general-purpose digital computer at NASA's 
Goddard Space Flight Center in Beltsville, Maryland. This computer then issued antenna- 
pointing commands via teletype to Goldstone. Because of the two different types of anten- 
nas at Goldstone, JPL engineers developed a digital encoding and computing system that 
converted antenna-pointing data from one antenna site and coordinate system to the other. 

The principal optical antenna-positioning method used a television camera and lens 
subsystem located on the structures of both antennas, along with the regular boresight 
telescope and boresight camera. The images provided by this system were displayed on a 
control console directly in front of the servo operator's position at each antenna site. This 
subsystem was not suitable for the initial acquisition of the satellite, however, because of 
its very narrow field of view (about 0.5 degree). Therefore, JPL engineers provided broad 
field-of-view acquisition telescopes at each site. 

Because of a blind spot in the coverage of the polar-mounted receiver antenna, 
Goldstone personnel used a third optical means to acquire the satellite during its first 
orbit. On its first orbital pass, the satellite was expected to approach Goldstone from the 
northwest, but the mounting of this antenna (which had been set to track and communi- 
cate with space probes having declinations varying from about thirty degrees north to 
about thirty degrees south) prevented it from being pointed to the horizon in this direc- 
tion. As a result, the antenna would be unable to monitor the satellite for the first eight 
minutes of the first pass. However, positional data on the first orbital pass were considered 
critical for initial orbit determination, so Goldstone personnel used a stand-alone 
Contraves phototheodolite to provide time-tagged Az-El data during the initial part of this 
pass. The main limitation of all three optical methods was, of course, that the satellite had 
to be visible. Thus, satellite observation had to occur at night, in clear weather, and when 
the Sun illuminated the satellite. 

The third method of tracking the satellite developed by JPL engineers was a continu- 
ous-wave radar subsystem. Once either the digital-slave or one of the optical methods 
acquired the satellite, this subsystem tracked the satellite automatically. Control signals 
generated from a simultaneous lobing antenna feed and receiver positioned the polar- 
mounted receiver antenna, to which the Az-El-mounted transmitter antenna was slaved via 
the coordinate-converter computer and related equipment. 

Bell Telephone Laboratories engineers employed similar tracking methods at their 
Holmdel station. The antennas were usually slaved to the tracking information provided 
by the drive tape from Goddard. Differences between the predicted and true positions 
were compensated by manual corrections obtained from either optics, radar, or (when a 
west-to-east transmission was being made) the strength of the received signal. 
Alternatively, the antennas could be slaved to the positional readouts of an optical track- 
er operated manually to track the satellite. 

The optical telescope (borrowed by Bell engineers from a surplus M-33 fire-control 
radar system) consisted of a large trailer carrying a periscope-type optical train leading 
down to convenient operator positions inside the trailer. A ten-kilowatt transmitter (used 
for both communication and the radar system and purchased from ITT) was installed on 
the sixty-foot-diameter (eighteen-meter-diameter) antenna. The radar signals reflected off 
the satellite were received by a separate eighteen-foot-diameter (about five-meter- 
diameter) antenna located about a mile and a half away from Crawford Hill so as to 
increase the separation between the transmitted signals and the radar receiver. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 47 

Prelaunch Tests 

After the installation of the new equipment, JPL and Bell Telephone Laboratories 
engineers began a testing program of the equipment and personnel at Goldstone and 
Holmdel prior to the launch of the first Echo balloon. The testing program consisted of 
a series of exercises that simulated as nearly as possible an actual Echo mission.'* The most 
striking of these exercises was a series of seventeen so-called "Moon Bounce" communi- 
cations experiments that began 23 November 1959 and continued until 7 August 1960, 
just five days before the launch of Echo. These experiments involved using the Moon as a 
passive reflector (in the manner of the Echo balloon) between the Holmdel and 
Goldstone stations. Such tests were useful because the combination of the Moon's ability 
to reflect energy to the receiving antenna (known as its radar cross section) and its dis- 
tance from the Earth provided a transmitter-to-receiver path loss (that is, the amount of 
radio signal power lost between the transmitter and receiver) nearly equal to that expect- 
ed for the Echo satellite.'^ 

As for acquisition and tracking problems, however, the Moon was too easy a target 
compared to Echo because of its highly predictable orbit, good visibility', and relatively 
slow motion across the sky. Therefore, Goldstone and Holmdel personnel participated in 
two types of tests with a "dark" satellite in a relatively high-altitude, stable orbit — namely, 
the TIROS 1 polar-orbiting meteorological satellite launched 1 April 1960. In one type of 
test, JPL engineers used basic TIROS tracking data generated by the Minitrack network to 
position the Goldstone antennas; then they tested the accuracy of the ephemeris by 
attempting to obtain a radar echo from the satellite. Another type of test involved bounc- 
ing continuous-wave radio signals off the satellite. The satellite's polar orbit made these 
tests more difficult, because it was visible over the Goldstone and Holmdel antennas for a 
period of only a few minutes. As a result, station operators had to rely on Minitrack- 
generated orbital data to position their antennas.'^ 

13. Regarding the overall philosophy behind these tests, see the section "Systems Tests for Project Echo" 
in Stevens and Victor, eds., The Goldstone System, pp. 48-52; Jakes, "Participation of Bell Telephone Laboratories," 
pp. 980-82. 

14. For detailed descriptions of the "Moon Bounce" tests, see "Moon Bounce Experiments," in JPL, 
Space Programs Summary No. 37-1 for the period 15 November 1959 to 15 January 1960, 1 February 1960, pp. 40-41; 
"Project Echo," in JPL, Space Programs Summary No. 37-2 for the period 15 January 1960 to 15 March I960, 1 April 
1960, pp. 44-45; "Project Echo," in JPL, Research Summary No. 36-2 for the period 1 February 1960 to 1 April 1960, 
vol. 1, pt. 1, 15 April 1960, pp. 1-3; "Moon-Bounce Experiments," in JPL, Space Programs Summary No. 37-3 for the 
period 15 March 1960 to 15 May 1960, 1 June 1960, p. 39; Jakes, "Participation of Bell Telephone Laboratories," 
p. 981. Press coverage of the first publicized "Moon Bounce" communication on 3 August 1960 is in Marvin 
Miles, "Attempt to Bounce Voice Off Moon Scheduled Today; Two-Way Phone Talk Scheduled," I^s Angeles 
Times, 3 August 1960; "JPL Sets First Long Distance 2-Way Phone Call Via Moon," Pasadena Independent, 3 August 
1960; "Moon Used to Relay Phone Calls," I^s Angeles Mirror, 3 August 1960; Marvin Miles, "East and West Coasts 
Converse in Phone Call Bounced Off Moon," Los Angeles Times, 4 August 1960; "JPL Call Via Moon Success," 
Pasadena Independent, 4 August 1960; Bill Sumner, "No Hamming in Historical Phone Call" and "Something 
Wroughten in Space" ("Daily Report" column), Pasadena Independent, 5 and 8 August 1960, all in JPL News Clips, 
3 August 1960, JPL Archives. 

15. For detailed descriptions of these tests, see "Dark Satellite Tracking Experiment," in JPL, Space 
Programs Summary No. 37-3 for the period 15 March 1960 to 15 May 1960, 1 June 1960, pp. 38-39; "Project Echo," in 
JPL, Space Programs Summary No. 37-4 for the period 15 May 1960to 15July 1960, 1 August 1960, pp. 43-45; Richard 
van Osten, "Goldstone Uses Now-silent Tiros I for Bouncing Signals," Missiles and Rockets, 15 August 1960, cited 
in JPL News Clips, 15 August 1960, JPL Archives. 

48 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Other tests conducted at Goldstone addressed the difficulty of tracking targets 
optically. Some tests involved tracking stars optically to check the absolute and relative 
alignment of the two antennas and to measure the sensitivity of the television cameras 
mounted on them. Other tests used a helicopter with an optical target light and a 2,388- 
megahertz radio beacon to exercise the optical equipment and to train antenna operators 
in the acquisition and tracking of visible satellite targets. 

Postlaunch Operations 

After conducting a series of five suborbital ballistic ("Shotput") tests of the balloon 
payload in late 1959 and early 1960, NASA ignored superstition and made its first attempt 
to launch the Echo satellite into orbit on Friday, 13 May 1960. The day indeed turned out 
to be unlucky for the Echo project. The attitude control jets on the second stage of the 
Thor-Delta rocket failed to fire during a coast period after the main engine of that stage 
burned out. Incapable of maintaining the proper angle for orbital insertion, the final 
stage and payload ultimately plunged into the Atlantic Ocean. 

A second launch attempt on 12 August 1960 succeeded in placing Echo 1 into the 
desired 1 ,000-mile-attitude orbit. On the first orbital pass, the phototheodolite at 
Goldstone optically spotted the satellite at 4:31 a.m. (Pacific Daylight Time) as it came 
over the northwest horizon. Three minutes later, the receiver antenna began collecting 
signals from the satellite's radio beacons. The radar acquired the balloon at 4:37 a.m. and 
tracked it automatically over the next 15 minutes until it disappeared below the southeast 
horizon. In the meantime, beginning at 4:36 a.m., the transmitter antenna began sending 
a 2,390-megahertz radio signal toward the satellite. 

At Holmdel, the acquisition of the Echo target was more difficult. Station operators 
lacked optical visibility, and their efforts were hampered by the use of a radar that was "still 
unproven." Bell engineers therefore used a drive tape supplied by the Goddard Space 
Flight Center prior to the launch. It was based on one of the nominal trajectories and 
adjusted approximately to the actual launch time. This method allowed the horn anten- 
na to begin receiving Goldstone's reflected signal at 4:41 a.m. (Pacific Daylight Time). 
One minute later, engineers at Goldstone used the transmitter antenna to begin sending 
a prerecorded message from President Eisenhower, and the Holmdel antenna clearly 
received it after its reflection off the balloon. 

Incorrect data points on the drive tape, however, caused the horn antenna to slew 
away from the actual satellite track during this first pass. Although angular offsets were 
quickly implemented to compensate for these errors, the reception of the Goldstone sig- 
nal was split into three separate periods lasting from one to three minutes. Bell Project 
Echo engineer William Jakes candidly acknowledged that "had the launching not been 
virtually perfect, there would have been no reception at all on the first pass because of the 
severe acquisition problem" at Holmdel."" 

In summarizing JPL's participation in project Echo, Stevens and Victor concluded 
that acquisition and tracking of the balloon with sufficient accuracy (0.1 degree) to make 
communication possible was "the most difficult task." By far the most reliable method, 
they pointed out, was optical acquisition and tracking. The desired accuracy was easily 
obtained by this method "as long as [the servo operators] were not fatigued." Slaving the 

16. For the most detailed description of the Shotput tests and the launches of 13 May and 12 August, 
see Elder, Out From Behind the Eight-Ball, pp. 68-70, 79-80, 84-85, 88-97, 103-09. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 49 

antennas digitally by means of a perforated teletype tape resulted in an average difference 
between the slave command and the measured Goldstone angles of between 0.1 and 
0.15 degree "as long as the orbital parameters were updated daily." Atmospheric drag on 
the balloon, which neither remained constant over time nor varied in a predictable man- 
ner, caused the largest uncertainty in predicting the orbit. '^ 

Victor and Jakes noted that the Echo project, through a large amount of organiza- 
tional coordination, had accomplished the "unprecedented feat of simultaneously slaving 
narrow beam antennas located a continent apart to a computer so that a relatively fast- 
moving satellite could be accurately tracked." They concluded, however, that the proce- 
dure "probably does not represent the most efficient use of a large scale, general purpose 
computer or the personnel involved.""* JPL's Stevens and Victor also felt that the reliabil- 
ity of this method needed to be improved before it could be considered operationally fea- 
sible. They reported that radar tracking of the balloon had been accurate to 0.03 degree 
for the receiving antenna and about 0.1 degree for the transmitting antenna at 

Looking to the future, Stevens and Victor suggested that "standard television might 
be relayed on a reasonably practical basis via passive satellites" if 1 ,000-foot-diameter bal- 
loons could be launched instead and if transmitter power and antenna gain could be 
boosted. While these improvements were "technically feasible," the JPL engineers warned 
that they were not necessarily "economically feasible or desirable"; other satellite tech- 
niques might prove more suitable for the transmission of wide-band video signals. On the 
other hand, Stevens and Victor judged, passive satellites "may be a good solution for nar- 
rower bandwidth data-transmission systems."^" 

17. Stevens and Victor, eds., Tfie Goldstone System, p. 55. 

18. Jakes and Victor, "Tracking Echo I," p. 214. 

19. Stevens and Victor, eds., The Goldstone System, p. 55. 

20. Victor and Stevens, The Role of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory," p. 28. 

Chapter 6 

NASA Experimental Communications 
Satellites, 1958-1995 

by Daniel R. Glover 

As the civilian agency exercising control over U.S. space activities, NASA has had a 
program of technology development for satellite communications since the agency was 
established in 1958. Part of this program has involved flying experimental communications 
satellites. NASA's first communications satellite project was Echo. Launched on 12 August 
1960, Echo 1 was a passive satellite that reflected radio waves back to the ground. 

Echo started out in 1956 as a National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) 
experiment to probe the upper reaches of the atmosphere and the effects on large light- 
weight structures in orbit. John Robinson Pierce and Rudolf Kompfner of AT&T's Bell 
Telephone Laboratories had been working on ideas for communications satellites, includ- 
ing passive systems, for some time. They realized that the Echo sphere would provide an 
excellent test mirror and proposed a communications experiment. The National 
Academy of Sciences sponsored a meeting, held on 28 August 1958, to define the project.' 
In 1958, when NASA was created and NACA dissolved, Echo became a NASA project. 

The Echo satellite was a 100-foot-diameter (thirty-one-meter-diameter) aluminized- 
polyester balloon that inflated after insertion into orbit. The G.T Schjeldahl Company 
built the Echo 1 balloon, and Grumman built the dispenser, for NASA's Langley Research 
Center in Hampton, Virginia. Two-way voice links of "good" quality were set up between 
Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, and NASA's Jet Propulsion 
Laboratory facility at Goldstone, California. Some transmissions from the United States 
were received in England at Jodrell Bank. 

Echo demonstrated satellite tracking and ground station technology that later applied 
to active satellite systems. Leonard Jaffe, director of the NASA satellite communications 
program at headquarters, wrote: "Echo [I] not only proved that microwave transmission 
to and from satellites in space was understood and there would be no surprises but it dra- 
matically demonstrated the promise of communication [s] satellites. The success of Echo 
[I] had more to do with the motivations of following communications satellite research 
than any other single event. "^ 

Echo 2, managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Beltsville, Maryland, left 
the launch pad on 25 January 1964. It had a better inflation system, which improved the 
balloon's smoothness and sphericity. Echo 2 investigations were concerned less with 
communications and more with the dynamics of large spacecraft. After Echo 2, NASA 
abandoned passive communications systems in favor of active satellites. The superior per- 
formance of the U.S. Department of Defense's SCORE (Signal Communication by 
Orbiting Relay Equipment) satellite, launched almost two years before Echo I, already had 
demonstrated the viability of the active approach. 

1. Leonard Jaffe, Communications in Space (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966), p. 67. 

2. Ibid., p. 80. 


52 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 


In the fall of 1960, as Echo 1 was achieving its first successes, AT&T began developing 
an active communications satellite system called Telstar. Although some observers felt that 
AT&T's early interest in communications satellites was part of a defensive maneuver to 
protect its commitment to cable technology, the company was investing large quantities of 
its own capital to create and launch its own communications satellite program.' Initially, 
the operational system was to consist of fifty to 120 active satellites in orbits approximate- 
ly 7,000 miles (about 9,310 kilometers) high. Using the large launch vehicles then in 
development, Pierce envisioned that "a dozen or more of these satellites could be placed 
in orbit in a single launching." With the satellites in random orbits. Bell Telephone 
Laboratories figured that a "system of 40 satellites in polar orbits and 15 in equatorial 
orbits would provide service 99.9 per cent [sic] of the time between any two points on 
earth." As Pierce explained, "AT&T has proposed that the system contain about 25 ground 
stations so placed as to provide global coverage."^ 

The cost of such a system would be high. In 1961, Pierce estimated the expense at 
$500 million, but that high price tag was not a detriment from AT&T's standpoint. As a 
telecommunications monopoly, AT&T's rates were regulated, and those rates included an 
amount that allowed AT&T to recover its costs as well as to make a profit. Thus, the cost 
of the proposed Telstar satellite system would be passed on to consumers, just as the high 
costs of undersea cables were, so AT&T found the system attractive. 

Bell Telephone Laboratories designed and built the Telstar spacecraft with corporate 
funds. The first Telstars were prototypes intended to prove various concepts behind the 
large constellation of orbiting satellites. Moreover, of die six Telstar spacecraft built, only 
two were launched. NASA's contribution to the project was limited to launch services, as 
well as some tracking and telemetry duties. AT&T reimbursed NASA $6 million for those 
services. NASA was able to negotiate such an excellent deal with AT&T, even though 
Telstar was not really a NASA project, because NASA held the monopoly for launch ser- 
vices. Moreover, NASA claimed Telstar as a NASA-supported project and even published 
the results of the communications experiments, originally issued as articles in the Bell 
Telephone technical journal, as a NASA publication (NASA Special PublicaUon [SP]-32). 
In addition, NASA obtained the rights to any patentable inventions arising from the 

On 10 July 1962, a Delta launcher placed the first Telstar spacecraft into orbit. The 
faceted 171-pound (about seventy-seven-kilogram) sphere had a diameter of a littie more 
than thirty-four inches (about one meter) . Telstar was the first satellite to use a traveling- 
wave-tube amplifier; transistor technology at the time was not capable of the three watts 
of power output at the required microwave frequencies.'^ Bell Telephone Laboratories also 
developed much of the technology required for satellite communication, including tran- 
sistors, solar cells, and traveling-wave-tube amplifiers. To handle Telstar communications, 
AT&T built ground stations at Andover, Maine; Pleumeur-Bodou, France; and Goonhilly 
Downs, Britain. These were similar to, but larger than, the ground station used for project 
Echo. The French station used a duplicate of the AT&T Holmdel horn antenna, while the 
British antenna was a parabolic dish. 

3. Delbert D. Smith, Ckmmunicatim Via Satellite: A Vision in Retrospect (Boston: A.W. Sijthoff, 1976), p. 71. 

4. John Robinson Pierce, "Communication Satellites," Scientific Ainerican 205 (October 1961): 101. 

5. Telstar I, 3 vols. (Washington, DC: NASA SP-32, Goddard Space Flight Center, June 1963). Also pub- 
lished as A.C. Dickieson, et al, 'Telstar 1," Bell System Technical Journal A2 (July 1963). In December 1965, Goddard 
issued volume four of NASA SP-32, which related Goddard Telstar experiments. The four-volume set of NASA 
SP-32 consequendy provides a useful compendium of Telstar information. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 53 

Telstar was a tremendous technical success, and the international reaction was spec- 
tacular. A U.S. Information Agency (USIA) poll showed that Telstar was better known in 
Great Britain than Sputnik had been in 1957. Rather than launching a useless bauble, the 
Americans had put into orbit a satellite that promised to tie together the ears and eyes of 
the world. Interestingly, the world saw Telstar as an undertaking of the U.S. government 
(the USIA publicity may have helped). President Kennedy hailed Telstar as "our American 
communications satellite" and "this outstanding symbol of America's space achievements."* 

Regarding Telstar, Jaffe, head of communications satellite programs at NASA, wrote 
in 1966: "Although not the first communications satellite, Telstar is the best known of all 
and is probably considered by most observers to have ushered in the era of satellite com- 
munications."' This impression resulted from the tremendous public impact of the first 
transmission of live television across the Atlantic Ocean from the United States to France 
by Telstar I on 10 July 1962, the very same day it was launched. In addition to television 
broadcasts, Telstar relayed telephone calls, data transmissions, and picture facsimiles. 

Telstar was AT&T's major move into satellite communications. That move failed to 
extend AT&T's monopoly of terrestrial communications into space, however; changing 
telecommunications policy from one presidential administration to the next, and a 
government desire to avert a monopoly of satellite communications, kept AT&T's mono]> 
olistic aspirations in check. At the same time, NASA contracted its communications satel- 
lite work to firms other than AT&T. 

When AT&T began working on Telstar, the Eisenhower administration seemed will- 
ing to allow it to extend its monopoly into space. A statement by President Eisenhower in 
December 1960, in which he presented his administration's policy on space communica- 
tions, stressed the traditional U.S. policy of placing telecommunications in the hands of 
private enterprise subject to governmental licensing and regulation and the achievement 
of "communications facilities second to none among the nations of the world." The role 
of NASA was "to take the lead within the executive branch both to advance the needed 
research and development and to encourage private industry to apply its resources toward 
the earliest practicable utilization of space technology for commercial civil communica- 
tion requirements."" 

The election of President Kennedy ushered in a new policy on satellite communica- 
tions that was openly antagonistic to monopolies, particularly to the extension of AT&T's 
monopoly in terrestrial communications to space communications. President Kennedy 
released a policy statement on 24 July 1961 that favored private ownership of satellite sys- 
tems, but with regulatory and other features aimed at avoiding a monopoly." 

AT&T's preeminent position as the largest U.S. common carrier and sole interna- 
tional telephone carrier, together with its willingness and ability to commit large sums of 
money to the development of communications satellites, convincingly suggested that 
commercial satellite utilization would very likely become AT&T utilization. Concern over 
the possibility of an AT&T monopoly in space was one factor that prompted a later reori- 
entation of the direction that commercialization seemed to be following.'" 

6. Typed manuscript, Peter Cunniffe, "Misreading History: Government Intervention in the 
Development of Commercial Communications Satellites," Report no. 24, Program in Science and Technology 
for International Security, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 1991, p. 29, ACTS Project Office, NASA 
Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, OH. 

7. Jaffe, Communications in Space, p. 107. 

8. Cited in Lloyd D. Musolf, ed.. Communications Satellites in Political Orbit (San Francisco: Chandler, 
1968), pp. 17-18. 

9. John F. Kennedy, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States (Washington, DC: Office of the 
Federal Register, National Archives and Records Service, 1961), p. 530. 

10. Smith, Communication Via Satellite, p. 74. 

54 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

On 31 August 1962, President Kennedy signed the Communications Satellite Act. The 
government assigned the monopoly of international satellite communications to a new 
corporation called Comsat. AT&T went ahead with Telstar 2, completing its experimental 
program. Of the six flightworthy spacecraft built by AT&T with corporate funds, only two 
were launched, but Telstar's publicity served AT&T very well. Nonetheless, between the 
success of Telstar 1 and the launch of Telstar 2 on 7 May 1963, AT&T lost its chance to 
control commercial satellite communications. 

NASA's role in communications satellites was changing, too. A 1958 agreement 
between NASA and the Department of Defense gave responsibility for the development of 
active communications satellites to the military, leaving NASA with the development of 
passive satellites. In August 1960, however, NASA decided to pursue active satellite 
research, but not synchronous satellites. The military already had an active synchronous 
satellite. Project Advent, in place. NASA began developing medium-altitude satellite sys- 
tems and issued a request for proposals on 4 January 1961 for an experimental commu- 
nications satellite to be known as Relay. Both AT&T and Hughes approached NASA with 
their design concepts, but in May 1961, NASA selected RCA to build the two Relay space- 
craft, instead of AT&T or Hughes. The Goddard Space Flight Center oversaw the project. 

Project Relay 

Although AT&T did not win the contract to build them, the Relay satellites used the 
same primary ground stations as those used by Bell Telephone Laboratories' Telstar 1 
satellite. These were located in the United States (in Maine, New Jersey, and California) 
and overseas (in West Germany, Italy, Brazil, and Japan). Relay was an experimental satel- 
lite program; however, the satellites transmitted television signals between the United 
States and Europe and Japan. The Tokyo 1964 Olympics, however, were passed from 
Tokyo to the United States, and then on to Europe via Relay. 

NASA launched Relay 1 on 13 December 1962 into an elliptical orbit with an apogee 
of 4,012 nautical miles (about seven kilometers) . The orbit took Relay through the Earth's 
inner radiation belt, so that the spacecraft could measure the levels of radiation and study 
its effects on satellite electronics. Relay taught many lessons in communications spacecraft 
design. The idea of flying experimental communications spacecraft is to try new things 
and to determine whether they work. Failures are expected and provide the learning 
experience necessary for technology advancement. Relay was no exception. 

While in orbit, the power supply for Relay I's primary transponder failed, and the 
spacecraft had to switch to its backup transponder, which performed well. Another prob- 
lem was spurious commands. The satellite recorded 401 anomalies (errors) during its first 
year. Ground stations observed anomalies when the satellite was in view, which was during 
only 15 percent of its orbit. The main culprit was interference from the wideband subsys- 
tem. Consequently as a corrective measure. Relay 2 carried a filter on the command receiv- 
er's transmission line and had improved circuitry to better differentiate between noise and 
command signals. As a result. Relay 2 recorded only sixt^-two command anomalies. 

Among the other problems faced by the first Relay experimental satellite was the fail- 
ure of the charge controller for one of three battery packs after about three months. Yet 
another was the long time required for the traveling-wave tube to warm up. Normally, the 
tube took three minutes to warm up, but the malfunctioning tube could take as long as 
sixteen minutes. This delay reduced the time the satellite was usable, as Relay I's orbit 
placed it in any particular ground station's view for only about thirty minutes. Relay 2, 
launched 21 January 1964, had increased radiation resistance plus measures that 

Beyond the Ionosphere 55 

improved reliability. Finally, Relay 1 had a design life of one year, but when its turnoff 
switch failed, it continued to operate for a second year. 


The objective of the Syncom satellite project was to demonstrate synchronous-orbit 
communications satellite technology. In the early 1960s, achieving a synchronous orbit 
was a challenge. According to Lawrence Lessing, an observer at the time (1962): 

Nearly everyone agrees that for a short-range, experimental first venture, the medium alti- 
tude active repeater satellite, such as Telstar or Relay, is the best bet ... . Lockheed . . . is 
confident that before the complex problems of operating 50 or more satellites at lower alti- 
tudes are solved . . . the U.S. xvill be able to put up a full-powered, simpler, high-altitude sys- 
tem. Other experts, however, say that the synchronous high-altitude satellite is still some 
order of magnitude beyond present technology.'^ 

A synchronous orbit is one in which a satellite makes one orbit per day, the same peri- 
od as the Earth's rotation around its axis. As a result, the satellite hovers over the same 
area of the Earth's surface continuously. The altitude of a synchronous orbit is 22,235 
miles (19,322 nautical miles or 35,784 kilometers). At lower altitudes, satellites orbit the 
Earth more than once per day. For example, the Space Shuttle, at a nominal altitude of 
180 miles (290 kilometers), orbits the Earth in an hour and a half. The Moon, on the 
other hand, at a distance of around 240,000 miles (nearly 390,000 kilometers), takes a 
month to orbit the Earth. 

A key advantage of a synchronous satellite is that ground stadons have a much easier 
job of tracking the satellite and pointing the transmitting and receiving antennas at it, 
because the satellite is always in view. With spacecraft in lower orbits, tracking stations 
must acquire the satellite as it comes into view above one horizon, then track it across the 
sky as the antenna slews completely to the opposite horizon, where the satellite disappears 
until its next pass. For continuous coverage, a ground station might need two antennas to 
acquire the first satellite, then connect with the next satellite passing overhead. In addi- 
tion, continuous coverage requires the placement of ground stations distributed around 
the globe, so that any given satellite is rising over the viewing horizon of one ground sta- 
tion, while it is setting in relation to another station. 

The chief communications advantage of the geosynchronous satellite, however, is its 
wide coverage of the Earth's surface. About 42 percent of the Earth's surface is visible 
from a synchronous orbit. Three properly placed satellites can provide coverage for the 
entire globe. Although Arthur C. Clarke published the first idea of a synchronous com- 
munications satellite in 1945, the first such synchronous-orbit spacecraft, Syncom 1, was 
not launched until 14 February 1963. However, when the motor for circularizing the orbit 
fired, the spacecraft fell silent. To demonstrate attitude control for antenna pointing and 
station keeping, Syncom had two separate attitude control-jet propellants: nitrogen and 
hydrogen peroxide. The most likely cause was a failure of the high-pressure nitrogen tank.'^ 

1 1 . Lawrence Lessing, "Launching a Communications System in Space," in The Editors of Fortune, eds., 
The Space Industry: America's Newest Giant (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962), pp. 140-41. 

12. Richard M. Bendey and Albert T. Owens, "SYNCOM Satellite Program," yowma/ of Spacecraft and 
Rockets 1 (July-August 1964): 395. 


Creating Systems: United States and Gvnada 

Figure 12 

Television image transmitted from Japan to the United States 
of the 1 964 Olympic Games in Tokyo via the Relay experi- 
mental communications satellite launched in 1962. 
(Courtesy of NASA) 

Syncom 2 addressed these critical prob- 
lems from the first attempt at making a geo- 
synchronous communications satellite. 
Launched on 26 July 1963, after improve- 
ments in the nitrogen tank design, Syncom 
2 successfully achieved synchronous orbit 
and transmitted data, telephone, facsimile, 
and video signals. Its successor, Syncom 3, 
launched 19 August 1964, had the addition 
of a wideband channel for television and 
provided coverage of the 1964 Tokyo 
Olympics. Syncom 3 was different from its 
predecessor in other ways, notably in its 
orbital pattern. A particular type of synchro- 
nous orbit is the geostationary orbit — 
namely, a synchronous orbit around the 
equator. Geostationary satellites seem to be 
stationary over a point on the surface, as dis- 
tinguished from an area of the surface. 
Syncom 3 had a geostationary orbit, while 

the orbit of Syncom 2 was inclined thirty-three degrees to the equator, so that over a twen- 
ty-four-hour period, it appeared to move thirty-three degrees north and thirty-three 
degrees south in a "figure 8" pattern as observed from the ground. 

In addition to communications experiments, the Syncom satellites contributed to a 
determination of the Earth's gravitational field. They were capable of measuring range at 
synchronous altitude to an accuracy of less than fifty meters. The high altitude of their 
orbits minimized perturbations arising from local topology changes on the Earth's surface. 

The Applications Technology Satellite Program 

The Syncom spacecraft, built by Hughes for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, 
marked the end of NASA's experimental satellites of the early 1960s. NASA turned both 
Syncom satellites over to the Department of Defense in April 1965, and they were turned 
off in April 1969. As a continuation of its successful program of experimental communi- 
cations satellites, NASA inaugurated the Applications Technology Satellite (ATS) series. 
These spacecraft demonstrated communications technologies and conducted weather 
observations and space research in response to congressional pressure. NASA and Hughes 
had hoped to continue the success of the Syncom project with an advanced Syncom satel- 
lite. Some members of Congress, however, feared that NASA was developing technology 
for the benefit of a single private company — namely, Comsat. Therefore, the advanced 
Syncom 's objectives were broadened to include meteorology and other experiments, and 
the program became the ATS series. 

The five first-generation ATS satellites, built by Hughes for Goddard, tested a range 
of new communications electronics in the Earth's orbit, as well as technology for gravity- 
gradient stabilization (on ATS-2, ATS-4, and ATS-5) and for medium-altitude orbits 
(ATS-2) on behalf of the Department of Defense. All of these first-generation ATS space- 
craft were capable of carrying more signal traffic than any of their predecessors. 

The first of these ATS satellites, launched 7 December 1966, carried out an impres- 
sive array of communications experiments and collected weather data. ATS-1 was the first 

Beyond the Ionosphere 57 

satellite to take independently uplinked signals and convert them for downlink on a sin- 
gle carrier. This technique, called "frequency division multiple access," conserves uplink 
spectrum and also provides efficient power utilization on the downlink. ATS-1 also carried 
a black-and-white weather camera, which transmitted the first full-disk Earth images from 
geosynchronous orbit. The communications hardware functioned for another two 
decades undl 1985, when the spacecraft failed to respond to commands. 

The second of these ATS satellites, in addition to communications experiments and 
space environment research, was to conduct technological testing of gravity-gradient sta- 
bilization for the Department of Defense. Launched 5 April 1967 atop an Atlas-Agena D 
rocket, ATS-2 never achieved circular orbit, because the Agena upper stage malfunc- 
tioned. Only a few experiments were able to return data. ATS-2 reentered the atmosphere 
on 2 September 1968. 

The following ATS is the oldest active communications satellite by a wide margin. 
Launched in November 1967, it is sdll in service more than 28 years later. Among its 
widest known achievements are the first full-disk, color Earth images transmitted from a 
satellite. Its imaging capability has served during disaster situations, from the Mexico 
earthquake to the Mount St. Helens eruption. ATS-3 experiments included VHF and 
C-band communications, a color spin-scan camera, an image dissector camera, a mechan- 
ically despun antenna, resistojet thrusters, hydrazine propulsion, optical surface 
experiments, and the measurement of the electron content of the ionosphere and 
magnetosphere. Because of failures in the hydrogen peroxide systems on ATS-1, ATS-3 
was equipped with a hydrazine propulsion system. Its success led to its incorporation on 
ATS-4 and ATS-5 as the sole propulsion system." 

The ATS-4 and ATS-5 satellites, because of the unsuccessful ATS-2 mission, again 
attempted to test technology for gravity-gradient stabilization for the Department of 
Defense — a key objective of the first generation of the ATS series. Gravity-gradient stabi- 
lization was chosen to maintain satellite stability, because it uses low levels of onboard 
power and propellant. The real goal, however, was to move away from spin-stabilized 
spacecraft to three-axis stabilization. Spin stabilization has the advantage of simplifying 
the method of keeping a spacecraft pointed in a given direction. A spinning spacecraft 
resists perturbing forces, similar to a gyroscope or a top. In space, forces that slow the rate 
of spin are very small, so that once the spacecraft is set spinning, it keeps going. 

Spin stabilization, however, is inherently inefficient. Only some of the satellite's solar 
cells are illuminated at any one instant. Also, because the radio energy from the nondi- 
rectional antennas radiates in all directions, only a fraction of that energy is directed 
toward the Earth. Three-axis stabilization allows the solar panels to be always pointed at 
the Sun and enables the use of a directional antenna that not only remains pointed 
toward the Earth, but concentrates the radio energy into a beam, rather than a scattering 

How, then, does one achieve three-axis stabilization? Gravity'-gradient stabilization 
uses the Earth's gravitational field to keep the spacecraft aligned in the desired orienta- 
tion. The spacecraft is designed so that one end is closer to the Earth than the other. The 
spacecraft end farther from the Earth is in a slightly weaker gravity field than the end 
closer to the Earth. Although this technique had been used in low orbit before the advent 
of the ATS program, the question to be addressed was whether or not the difference in 
gravity fields (the gradient) was too weak to be useful at higher altitudes. That was the 
objective of both ATS-4 and ATS-5. 

13. Paul J. McCeney, "Applications Technology Satellite Program," Acta Astronautica 5 (1978): 299-325. 


Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Figure 13 

ATS-3, the third in NASA's Applications Technology Satellite (ATS) series of experimental communications satellites. 
Launched in November 1967, ATS-3 is still in service today. Among its most acclaimed successes is the first full-disk, color 
image of the Earth transmitted from a satellite. (Courtesy of NASA, photo no. 67-HC-612) 

Beyond the Ionosphere 59 

ATS-4 was launched 10 August 1968 atop a powerful Atlas-Centaur rocket, but it reen- 
tered the atmosphere on 17 October 1968 because the Centaur upper stage failed to re- 
ignite. The ATS-5, then, was the final attempt at a synchronous gravity-gradient spacecraft. 
Launched 12 August 1969 on an Atlas-Centaur rocket, ATS-5 developed problems in its 
parking orbit and expended large amounts of propellant to stabilize itself. To try to sal- 
vage the mission, NASA injected the satellite into its final orbit ahead of schedule. 

Although ATS-5 was to be a gravity-gradient stabilized satellite, spin stabilization was 
used during orbit insertion (a common practice). The spacecraft carried a device to 
remove the spin after it reached its final orbit. The device deployed booms to slow the 
spin, which is very similar to spinning figure skaters who extend their arms to slow down. 
Thus, ATS-5 successfully achieved a synchronous orbit, but the spacecraft's spin was in the 
wrong direction for this device to work. As a consequence, the gravity-gradient stabiliza- 
tion experiment was useless. The communications experiments were severely handi- 
capped because the antennas were spinning with the spacecraft and could only work as a 
lighthouse beacon, rather than as a spotlight. Some communications experiments were 
later carried out in a pulse mode, and some secondary experiments were conducted as 
late as 1977.''' Among those experiments were an L-band aeronautical communications 
package, an ion engine, a charge neutralizer, solar cell tests, and research on particles, 
electric and magnetic fields, and solar radio waves. 

Applications Technology Satellites: 
The Next Generation? 

The first of the second generation of the ATS program, known as ATS-6, also was the 
last ATS mission. Congress canceled the program in 1973 as a budget-cutting measure and 
to allow the commercial communications satellite industry to underwrite its own research 
and development. In 1974, NASA unsuccessfully attempted to reinstate the ATS program. 
Thus, the impressive ATS-6 spacecraft, launched 30 May 1974, marked the end of an era 
and the beginning of a dry spell for NASA experimental communications satellites. 

Built by Fairchild Space and Electronics Company for Goddard, the ATS-6 spacecraft 
was much larger than its predecessors, weighing 1,336 kilograms (compared with 431 kilo- 
grams for ATS-5) and standing just over eight and a half meters tall and sixteen meters 
across its booms (ATS-5 was 1.8 meters tall and 1.4 meters in diameter). In addition to 
being the largest geosynchronous communications satellite launched to date, it was the 
first three-axis stabilized communications satellite. ATS-6 incorporated many significant 
design firsts, such as a 9.14-meter parabolic reflector, a digital computer for attitude con- 
trol, solid-state high-power radio frequency transmitters, a primary structure made of 
graphite composite material, heat pipes for primary thermal control, monopulse tracking 
for attitude control, and a radio frequency interferometer for attitude determination and 

Equally significant was the demonstration of technology for tracking and data relay 
satellites that led to the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) program. In 
the TDRSS, a tracking and data relay satellite uses the geosynchronous orbital vantage 
point to look down on low-altitude satellites. Data are relayed from the low-altitude 

14. Ibid., p. 324. 

15. Robert O. Wales, ed., ATS-6 Final Engineering Performance Report (Washington, DC: NASA Research 
Publication [RP]-1080, 1981). 

60 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

satellite to a ground station through the geosynchronous satellite. Without this space relay 
capability, NASA needed ground stations all over the globe to collect data from satellites 
as they passed overhead. Because a low-altitude satellite orbits the Earth in a matter of a 
few hours, it is only in view of a single ground station for typically 20 minutes at a time. 
ATS-6 tracked the Nimbus 5 and 6 and the CEOS 3 (Geodynamics Experimental Ocean 
Satellite) satellites with a roll-and-pitch accuracy of better than 0.2 degree. 

The nine-meter antenna enabled small ground receivers to pick up a good quality sig- 
nal. A demonstration in India, in 1975, relayed television signals from a six-gigahertz 
uplink through the ATS-6 spacecraft and back to Earth at 860 megahertz, directly to three- 
meter antennas installed in approximately 2,000 villages. The large deployable antenna 
required tight pointing by the spacecraft, which is why it used three-axis stabilization. 
ATS-6 carried out radio-wave propagation studies at frequencies up to thirty gigahertz; it 
also established L-band (1,550 to 1,650 megahertz) relay links to aircraft and demonstrat- 
ed multiple aircraft tracking. 

ATS-6 experienced a failure of three of its four orbit control jets in May 1979. That 
failure led to the decision to power down the spacecraft on 3 August 1979. Subsequently, 
its telemetry system was activated between November 1979 and February 1980 to collect 
particle data for correlation with similar data being collected by other satellites."^ 

NASA Quits 

Although the launch of the ATS-6 spacecraft in 1974 marked the end of NASA's pro- 
gram of experimental communications satellites, the space agency also participated at the 
same time in a Canadian satellite venture known initially as "Cooperative Applications 
Satellite C" and renamed Hermes. This joint effort involved NASA and the Canadian 
Department of Communications. NASA's Lewis Research Center provided the satellite's 
high-power communications payload. Canada designed and built the spacecraft; NASA 
tested, launched, and operated it. Also, the European Space Agency provided one of the 
low-power traveling-wave tubes and other equipment." Hermes was launched 17 January 
1976 and operated until October 1979. 

Canada also created a telecommunications policy that the United States would emu- 
late, and this would lead to the end of NASA's communications satellite research and 
development program. In late 1969, Canada announced that any financially qualified 
organization could apply for, and expect to be granted, authority to operate a domestic 
satellite system. As a result, in November 1972, that country put into orbit the world's first 
domestic satellite. In addition, the Canadian government abandoned sponsored research 
in the hope of motivating competition in the development of satellite technology. This 
Canadian "Open Skies" policy represented a striking contrast to past U.S. policy,"* but it 
was in tune with the Nixon administration's advocacy of competition. 

16. In 1985, the ATS program was transferred from Goddard to the Lewis Research Center in Cleveland 
to consolidate NASA's communications program. ATS-3 is still operational. Michael A. Cauley, "ATS-3: 
Celebrating 25 Years of Service in Space," unpublished manuscript, no date, p. 1, ACTS Project Office, NASA 
Lewis Research Center. 

1 7. Harold R. Raine, 'The Communications Technology Satellite Flight Performance," Acta Astronautica 
5 (1978): 343-368. 

18. A.D. Wheelon, "Von Karman Lecture: The Rocky Road to Communication Satellites," in AIAA 24th 
Aerospace Sciences Meeting: January 6-9, 1986, Reno, Nevada, Paper No. AJAA-86-0293, Vol. 4 (New York: American 
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1986), p. 21. 

BEVO^a) the Ionosphere 61 

Subsequently, in January 1973, budget pressures caused NASA essentially to eliminate 
its communications satellite research and development program, much of which was car- 
ried out at the Goddard Space Flight Center, although the Lewis Research Center was 
working on advances in traveling-wave tube design and was participating in the Canadian 
Hermes project. Goddard had been responsible for most NASA experimental (as well as 
operational) communications satellites, including the ATS series. 

Meanwhile, the danger of foreign competition, especially from Japan and Europe, 
loomed large. The Japanese launched the first commercial Ka-band operational satellite, 
called Sakura 2a, on 4 February 1983. Built by Ford (now Loral) and Mitsubishi, and 
launched on a Japanese N2 rocket, Sakura 2a also was Japan's first commercial commu- 
nications satellite. It was replaced by Sakura 3a, which was launched 19 February 1988. In 
the 1990s, Loral also built the Superbird and N-Star satellites for Japan, and with Japanese 
contractors led by Toshiba, Japan's National Space Development Agency designed and 
built the ETS 6 (Kiku 6) spacecraft.'" 

At the same time, the Europeans were catching up. The Olympus satellite began 
development in 1979 as L-Sat and was built by European aerospace companies, of which 
British Aerospace was the prime contractor. Launched on 12 July 1989 on an Ariane 3 
rocket, Olympus was a large multipurpose satellite demonstrating and promoting new 
applications in television broadcasting, intercity telephone routing, and the use of the 
K^-band for videoconferencing and low-rate data transfer for business communication.^" 

Foreign competition provided NASA a strong argument for reinstating its commercial 
satellite development program. The question was: what technology ought to be devel- 
oped? Market studies conducted during the 1970s revealed the crowding of synchronous 
orbits. The obvious solution to overcrowding was to use higher frequency Ka-band com- 
munications satellites. 

A compelling synergy exists among the use of Ka-band frequencies, spot beams, and 
onboard processors. In general, higher frequencies produce smaller beam widths with a 
given antenna, and so it is easier to make antennas that produce spot beams at Ka-band 
frequencies. A spot beam covers a smaller area, such as a major metropolitan area, 
compared to typical beams covering the entire country. These spot beams improve the 
problem of rain fade at Ka-band by concentrating the signal strength to punch through 
clouds. Once there are spot beams, it is a natural extension to switch signals between var- 
ious spot coverage areas (such as routing one signal from New York to Chicago and anoth- 
er from New York to Los Angeles) aboard the spacecraft. 

Despite the virtual shutdown of the NASA communications satellite research and 
development program, NASA systems engineers throughout the mid-1970s sought ways to 
revive their canceled program. Work continued on satellites that were still operating in 
space, as well as on projects that were too far along to stop. Both the Lewis Research 
Center and the Goddard Space Flight Center advocated reviving the space communica- 
tions programs, but along very different lines. Goddard championed public service satel- 
lites directly in competition with industry. The technology development program at Lewis 
supported U.S. industry, although some companies saw the Lewis approach as subsidizing 
competitors. The Nixon administration's advocacy of competition thus favored the Lewis 

The question of federal funding of communications satellite technology development 
by NASA came before the National Research Council, whose Committee on Satellite 

19. Andrew Wilson, ed.Jayne's Spaa Directory 1993-1994 (Surrey. Jayne's, 1993), pp. 66, 359-60. 

20. md., pp. 330-32. 

62 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Communications released a report on the subject in 1977. The committee considered sev- 
eral options and recommended funding a NASA experimental communications satellite 
technology flight program and an experimental public service communications satellite 
system. The committee opposed creating an operational public service system on the 
grounds that it was "inappropriate for NASA."^' 

In 1978, five years after budget pressures forced NASA to eliminate its commercial 
communications satellite research and development program, the space agency reentered 
the field. ^^ The Lewis Research Center, not the Goddard Space Flight Center, acted as the 
lead center, in light of the program's emphasis on technology. Lewis worked on the next 
NASA experimental communications satellite and began a $45 million program of 
technology development using duplicate contracts, to have the new designs needed for a 
radically new spacecraft. NASA involved the five major builders of communications satel- 
lites — TRW, Hughes, Ford, General Electric, and RCA — by awarding each a study con- 
tract. These contracts ranged in cost from $264,000 (RCA) to $1,213,000 (TRW), and all 
were completed in the summer of 1981. 

Joe Sivo, chief of the communications division at Lewis, brought U.S. communications 
carriers — the users of the technology — into the program to develop a consensus on 
advanced technology requirements. Between November 1979 and May 1983, the Carrier 
Working Group, formed by Sivo, met nine times to define flight system requirements and 
experiments and to review spacecraft designs as they became available from the study con- 
tractors. The Carrier Working Group consisted of representatives from American Satellite, 
AT&T Long Lines, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Comsat, GTE Satellite, Hughes 
Communications, ITT, RCA, Satellite Business Systems (MCI), Southern Pacific, and 
Western Union. 

The Advanced Communications Technology Satellite 

The efforts of the Carrier Working Group and the industry study contracts led direct- 
ly to the design and construction of the next NASA experimental communications satel- 
lite, known as the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS). Its unique 
feature is that it acts as a "switchboard in the sky." The communications payload incorpo- 
rates steerable, spot-beam antennas and onboard switching that allows signals to be rout- 
ed aboard the spacecraft. The Ka-band frequencies used by the ACTS (thirty gigahertz for 
the uplink and twenty gigahertz for the downlink) were new capabilities for U.S. commu- 
nications satellites, but the Japanese already had used them on their own satellite. NASA 
makes the satellite available for experiments by industry, universities, and other govern- 
ment agencies, as well as for tests of new service applications. 

Launched 12 September 1993, the ACTS has been perhaps the most successful of 
NASA's communications satellites. To date, it has operated for two years without failures 
and has conducted more than 100 experiments and tests. Furthermore, several commer- 
cial systems have proposed using ACTS technologies. For example. Motorola, which built 
the satellite's baseband processor, is incorporating onboard switching in its Iridium sys- 
tem, while Hughes is working on Spaceway, a Ka-band system with spot beams. Despite 

21. Committee on Satellite Communications, Space Applications Board, Assembly of Engineering, 
National Research Council, Federal Research and Development for Satellite Communications (Washington, DC: 
National Academy of Sciences, 1977), p. 30. 

22. Robert R. Lovell, The Status of NASA's Communications Program," Pacific Telecommunications 
Conference, January 1982, p. 4, preprint copy supplied by author. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 63 

these technical and commercial successes, the ACTS had a long and tortuous existence 
during the 1980s, as Congress and the White House debated the philosophy of having 
NASA develop technology for the U.S. communications satellite industry. While the satel- 
lite was still in the design phase, for example, the Reagan administration deleted the satel- 
lite from its budget, only to have Congress reinstate the project. 


NASA's commercial communications satellite program has produced many significant 
results over the past 35 years. Although some critics have argued that NASA has overstat- 
ed its contribution to satellite communications,^' one can contend that the program has 
returned far more to the industry than its cost. 

One often overlooked key to understanding the value of NASA's experimental com- 
munications satellite program is the concept of risk in space design. The high cost of 
launching spacecraft, coupled with the current impossibility of repairing hardware in syn- 
chronous orbit, means that the design of space hardware is driven by the risk of failure. 
As a result, space hardware designs have been very conservative, using old technology, 
because of the perceived risk associated with using anything new. Even if a new item can 
produce greater capability at lower cost, if it increases the risk of failure, it will not be used. 
For a new technology to fly, its benefits must be overwhelming, thereby precluding incre- 
mental improvements in space technology. As a result, space hardware can lag behind the 
state of the art by more than a decade. 

A high risk of failure overshadowed the early years of satellite communications. 
NASA's launch record in the early 1960s reflected the state of rocket science at the time — 
namely, rockets failed quite often. Also, the space environment was not well known. The 
period was a critical time for NASA's involvement in the development of communications 
satellites. Without NASA, Hughes's Syncom would never have gotten off the ground, and 
Hughes would not be the world's largest communications satellite maker today. 

Despite the benefits that NASA's experimental communications satellite program has 
brought industry, industry does not look kindly on NASA's development of spacecraft or 
technology that might undermine a firm's competitive advantage. In other words, a NASA 
spacecraft must develop new technology that all U.S. companies can use, but the space 
agency must avoid the construction of spacecraft that might seem to compete with any 
company. Hughes benefited enormously from NASA's involvement in the early days of 
communications satellites. Today, as a result, Hughes is the largest builder of commercial 
communications satellites. In the 1995 Space News 'Top 50" list of space companies, 
Hughes was ranked second. ^^ 

The 1973 cancellation of NASA's commercial communications satellite research and 
development program, in retrospect, benefited the space agency. It forced a complete 
rethinking of the program. To be reinstated in 1978, NASA had to justify the program 
from scratch and transform it from a public service demonstration into a technology 
development program. The public service satellite program looked too much like com- 
petition to industry, even though the services NASA provided would not have been afford- 
able to public service users. 

23. See, for instance, Cunniffe, "Misreading History," passim. 

24. Laura K. Browning, The Top 50 Space Companies," Space News 6 (24-30 July 1995): 8. 

64 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

NASA currently is reorganizing its commercizil communications program to prepare 
for the next generation of research and development following the ACTS, although a 
need for a foUowup project is not perceived at the moment. Therefore, NASA plans to 
develop long-term technology improvements and work on both spectrum management 
and issues of interoperability between satellite systems. NASA has benefited from the 
Satellite Industry Task Force, an industry advisory committee chaired by Hughes's 
Thomas Brackey. At a presentation of its findings on 12 September 1995, attended by Vice 
President Al Gore, the task force expressed support for the ACTS, but it did not call for 
NASA undertaking another satellite project. 

Chapter 7 

From Advent to Milstar: The U.S. 

Air Force and the Challenges of 

Military Satellite Communications 

by David N. Spires and Rick W. Sturdevant 

For more than three decades, the U.S. Air Force has led efforts to expand satellite 
communications capabilities for military use. From Advent in the early 1960s to Milstar in 
the 1990s, the Air Force has provided launch vehicles, supporting infrastructure, and most 
of the communications satellites for the defense community. In so doing, the Air Force 
has confronted a variety of sometimes related technical, political, and institutional chal- 
lenges. These focused initially on long-range strategic communications requirements, but 
increasingly on tactical needs after the first wartime transmission of voice and data from 
Vietnam to Washington, D.C., via satellite. Air Force engineers often led their commercial 
counterparts as they probed the boundaries of high-risk technology in an effort to 
increase payload capabilities. Unlike providers of commercial satellite communications 
services, however, the Air Force has wrestled with survivability and unique requirements 
that have increased military satellite costs, even as commercial costs have dropped. 

As an example of political challenges, "convergence" proponents have repeatedly 
criticized military satellite communications; they argue that merging the commercial and 
military sectors would avoid duplication and save tax dollars. Conversely, civilians who 
worry about divergent civil and military interests and military people concerned vdth 
system security and assured access during conflicts have staunchly defended the need for 
separate military satellite communications capabilities, even if they must be supplement- 
ed by civil and commercial satellite communications to handle total volume. In terms of 
institutional challenges, the Department of Defense (DoD) traditionally has favored 
tri-service, or joint force, military satellite communications management for the sake of 
cost-effectiveness — and to reduce interservice rivalries. The complicated, fragmented 
nature of military satellite communications management has served historically to render 
the integration of planning and services more difficult within the Air Force and DoD; fur- 
thermore, it has retarded the movement of military satellite communications systems 
from the realm of research and development into the operational arena. 

Origins and Early Efforts 

World War II demonstrated the essendal requirement of electronically transmitting 
military information over longer ranges, in greater quantities, and with more reliability 
and higher security than ever before. A constellation of Earth-orbiting satellites, first pro- 
posed by the British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in October 1945, offered a rev- 
olutionary way of meeting those requirements. Now a part of early space lore, Clarke's 
concept of geostationary communications satellites sparked serious military interest, as 
evidenced by Project RAND's May 1946 report to the Army Air Forces, tided Preliminary 


66 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship} It could not be implemented, however, 
until the technology for space launch and satellite construction was more advanced. 

For the near term, the military services (primarily the Army and Navy) had to satisfy 
themselves with using the Moon for space communications experiments. Not until 18 
December 1958 did an Air Force Adas B booster successfully carry the Advanced Research 
Projects Agency's SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment) into 
low-Earth orbit, from where it delivered President Eisenhower's now-famous Christmas 
message. The Army followed this achievement in October 1960 with the successful launch 
of its Courier delayed-repeater communications satellite, which operated in the ultrahigh 
frequency (UHF) band in a low-altitude orbit (90 to 450 nautical miles, or 167 to 833 kilo- 
meters). Meanwhile, under Project West Ford (later Project Needles), the Air Force con- 
tracted with Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to 
produce 480 million hair-like, copper dipoles, which were launched on 9 May 1963 and 
reflected radio signals from an orbit nearly 2,000 nautical miles (about 3,700 kilometers) 
above the Earth. ^ 

As the 1960s approached, DoD sought to simultaneously develop a satellite constella- 
tion of the sort envisioned by Clarke and create management structures to handle the new 
communications capabilities. In 1958, the Advanced Research Projects Agency had direct- 
ed the Army and Air Force to plan for an equatorial synchronous (strategic) satellite com- 
munications system, with the Air Force responsible for the booster and spacecraft and the 
Army in charge of the actual communications elements aboard the satellite, as well as on 
the ground. The program initially consisted of three projects. Two of these, named Steer 
and Tackle, used medium-altitude repeater satellites; the third. Decree, called for a syn- 
chronous repeater satellite using microwave frequencies. The Pentagon transferred the 
management of military satellite communications development efforts from the 
Advanced Research Projects Agency to the Army in September 1959; it soon thereafter 
combined the three projects into a single program, called Advent. 

Once described as a "not quite possible dream," that technologically ambitious under- 
taking was soon plagued by high costs, inadequate payload capacity, and an excessive satel- 
lite-to-booster weight ratio. Those problems caused Secretary of Defense Robert 
McNamara to cancel Advent on 23 May 1962. Meanwhile, it had become apparent that 
neither the Army nor any other single service would have overall responsibility for mili- 
tary satellite communications, because in May 1960 the Pentagon combined the strategic 

1 . For a discussion of communications satellites in the RAND report, see Douglas Aircraft Company, 
Inc., Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship, Report No. SM-11827 (Santa Monica, CA: 
Douglas Aircraft Company, Engineering Division, 2 May 1946), pp. 14-15. For a probable connection between 
Arthur Clarke's article and the RAND report, see Donald C. Elder, Out From Behind the Eight-Ball: A History of 
Project Echo, AAS History Series, Vol. 16 (San Diego: American Astronautical Society, 1995), p. 13. 

2. Carl Berger, The Air Farce in Space, Fiscal Year 1961, Vol. SHO-S-66/142 (Washington, DC: U.S. Air 
Force Historical Division Liaison Office, April 1966), pp. 84-93; The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace 
Corporation: Its Work, 1960-1980 (Los Angeles: Times Mirror Press, 1980), pp. 47-49; Maj. Robert E. Lee, History 
of the Defense Satellite Communications System (1964-1986), ACSC Report No. 87-1545 (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air 
University Press, 1987), pp. 5-8; Elder, Out From Behind the Eight-Ball, pp. 11-13, 51-56. Project West Ford grew 
out of a 1958 summer study on secure, hardened, reliable communications to overcome problems (such as inad- 
equate power generation and limited real-time communication from low-Earth orbits) associated with the earli- 
est active communications satellites. Although many critics feared that West Ford would produce long-term prob- 
lems for Earth-based astronomers, most of the dipoles had reentered the atmosphere by early 1966. North 
American Aerospace Defense Command's Space Surveillance Center, however, did continue tracking remnants 
as late as 1989. Donald H. Martin, Communication Satellites, 1958-1992 (El Segundo, CA: Aerospace Corporation, 
1991), pp. 8-9; History of Military Space Operations, ATC Study Guide S-V95-A-SPV01-SG (Lowry AFB, CO: 3301st 
Space Training Squadron, Air Training Command, March 1991), pp. 39-40. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 67 

communications systems of the three services under a Defense Communications System 
(DCS) run by the newly created Defense Communications Agency (DCA).' 

Before authorizing a more realistic military satellite communications project to 
replace Advent, McNamara opened discussions with Comsat, the corporation that con- 
gressional legislation established in early 1963. McNamara questioned why he should fund 
a separate, costly medium-altitude military satellite system if the military could lease links 
from Comsat at lesser cost. DoD and Comsat, however, could not agree on costs or the 
need for separate military repeaters aboard commercial satellites.'' 

Furthermore, the addition of military applications to a civilian system designed for 
use by other countries created international concerns. On 15 July 1964, after months of 
fruidess effort, McNamara ended negotiations and opted for the full-scale development 
of a dedicated military system, which the Air Force had consistently favored to ensure 
security and reliability. The defense secretary accepted a proposal that Aerospace 
Corporation had been studying for the Air Force. Although it initially had called for using 
an Adas-Agena booster combination to launch a constellation of randomly placed, medi- 
um-altitude satellites weighing 100 pounds (forty-five kilograms) each, the development 
of the more powerful Titan IIIC booster soon resulted in a decision to aim for launching 
as many as eight satellites at once into a near-synchronous equatorial configuration. The 
Los Angeles-based Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO) , within the Air Force 
Systems Command, was responsible for developing both the spacecraft and its communi- 
cations payload; the Army Satellite Communications Agency was designated to manage 
the ground segment; and DCA had executive management responsibility for this Initial 
Defense Communications Satellite Program (IDCSP) .* 

The Initial Defense Communications Satellite Program 

Originally expected to function as an experimental system, IDCSP rapidly proved its 
operational worth and became the first phase in a three-phase evolutionary program to 
provide long-term, survivable communications for both strategic and tactical users. The 
first seven IDCSP satellites, relatively simple in design to avoid the problems that had 
plagued Courier and prevented Advent from ever getting off the ground, went aloft on 
16 June 1966. Operating in superhigh frequency (SHF), weighing about 100 pounds 
(forty-five kilograms) , and measuring only three feet (one meter) in diameter and nearly 
three feet (one meter) in height, these spin-stabilized satellites contained no moveable 

3. The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, pp. 47-49; Lee, History of the Defense 
Satellite Communications System, pp. 5-8; Berger, The Air Farce in Space, pp. 84-93. When it agreed to terminate the 
Advent program, DoD received assurances it would have access to NASA's Syncom satellites. On I January 1965, 
NASA transferred Syncom operations to the Pentagon. Over the next two years, the DoD logged extensive time 
on Syncom 2 and Syncom 3, although use diminished after the IDCSP satellites became operational. See TRW, 
Space Log A (Winter 1964-65): 27-28; Heather E. Hudson, Communication Satellites: Their Development and Impact 
(New York: Free Press, 1990), p. 19; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 12-14. 

4. Military and commercial capabilities would not share the same satellite until the Navy contracted 
with Comsat in 1973 for "gapfiUer" service, pending the completion of its Fleet Satellite Communicadons 
System. See Michael E. Kinsley, Outer Space and Inner Sanctums: Government, Business, and Satellite Communication 
(New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1976), pp. 199-200; Anthony Michael Tedeschi, Live Via Satellite: The Story of 
COMSAT and the Technology that Changed World Communication (Washington, DC: Acropolis Books, 1989), p. 150; 
Marun, Communication Satellites, pp. 104-05, 183-86. 

5. Berger, The Air Force in Space, pp. 65-68; The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its 
Work, pp. 48-52; Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 8-10; House Committee on 
Government Operations, Government Operations in Space (Analysis of Civil-Military Roles and Relationships), 89th 
Cong., 1st sess., 4 June 1965, H. Rept. 445, pp. 78-79. 


Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

parts, no batteries for electrical power, and only a basic telemetry capability for monitor- 
ing purposes. The configuration of each IDCSP platform provided two-way circuit capac- 
ity for either eleven tactical-quality voice circuits or five commercial-quality circuits capa- 
ble of transmitting one million digital or 1,550 teletype data bits per second. The IDCSP 
satellite's twenty-four-face polyhedral surface accommodated 8,000 solar cells that provid- 
ed sufficient energy to power a single-channel receiver operating near 8,000 megahertz, a 
three-watt traveling-wave-tube amplifier transmitting around 7,000 megahertz, and one 
twenty-megahertz double-conversion repeater. Designed to operate for three years, the 
actual mean time before failure among IDCSP satellites proved to be six years. DCA 
declared the system operational and changed its name to the Initial Defense Satellite 
Commimications System (IDSCS) before the launch of the last group of eight satellites on 
13 June 1968.« 

Figure 14 

The Mark IV(X) transportable station for satellite communications designed for transmitting and receiving voice, teletype, and 
facsimile images via NASA 's Syncom satellite. During the Vietnam War, the military relied on Syncom for routine adminis- 
trative and logistical communications between Saigon and Hawaii. (Courtesy of NASA) 

6. Gerald T. Cantwell, The Air Farce in Space, Fiscal Year 1964, Vol. SHO-S-67/52 (Washington, DC: U.S. 
Air Force Historical Division Liaison Office, June 1967), pp. 69-76; Gerald T. Cantwell, The Air Force in Space, 
Fiscal Year 1965, Vol. SHO-S-68/186 (Washington, DC: U.S. Air Force Historical Division Liaison Office, April 
1968) , pp. 42-51; Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 10-13; The Aerospace Corporation, 
The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, pp. 48-52; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 95-96. 

Bevond the Ionosphere 69 

Vietnam provided the first opportunity to use satellite communications fi:'om a real- 
world theater of operations. U.S. forces had installed IDCSP ground terminals at Saigon 
and Nha Trang by July 1967. Under Project Compass Link, IDCSP provided circuits for 
the transmission of high-resolution photography between Saigon and Washington, D.C. 
As a result of this revolutionary development, analysts could conduct near-real-time bat- 
tlefield intelligence from afar. Commercial systems also supplied satellite circuits to sup- 
port area communications requirements. Even before IDCSP service became available, 
the military had relied on the NASA-developed Syncom satellite for communications 
between Saigon and Hawaii. Later, Comsat leased ten circuits between its Bangkok facili- 
ties and Hawaii, while the Southeast Asia Coastal Cable System furnished part of the net- 
work for satellite terminal access between Bangkok and Saigon. Satellite usage during the 
Vietnam War established the military practice of relying on commercial space systems for 
routine administrative and logistical needs while trusting more sensitive command-and- 
control communications to the dedicated military system.' 

The Defense Satellite Communications System 

While the IDSCS provided good service for nearly ten years and also furnished the 
basic design for British Skynet and NATO satellites, the first-phase Defense Satellite 
Communications System (DSCS) satellites remained limited in terms of channel capacity, 
user access, and coverage. Furthermore, military planners worried about the vulnerabili- 
ty of a command-and-control system that involved a central terminus connected to a 
number of remote terminals. The subsequent DSCS II design sought to overcome those 
deficiencies. TRW Systems received a contract from the Air Force Space Systems Di\dsion 
(formerly SAMSO) in March 1969 to develop and produce a qualification model and six 
flightworthy satellites to be launched in pairs aboard a Titan III. Plans called for a con- 
stellation of four active satellites in geosynchronous orbit, supported by two orbiting 
spares. Each satellite measured nine feet (2.7 meters) in diameter, was thirteen feet (four 
meters) in height with antennas extended, and weighed 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms). 

DSCS II, because it was dual-spun for stability, represented a "giant step" in technical 
development over its smaller, lighter, and less capable predecessor. A flexible, four-channel 
configuration provided a variety of communications links for interfacing with various size 
terminals. It possessed capacity for 1,300 two-way voice channels or 100 million bits of 
digital data per second, and onboard batteries generated 520 watts of power to comple- 
ment the satellite's eight solar panels. The five-year design life nearly doubled that of DSCS 
I, and the new system's redundancy, multichannel and multiple-access features, and 
increased capability to communicate with smaller, more mobile ground stations especially 
pleased the Air Force and other users.* 

7. Lt. Col. John J. Lane, Jr., Command and Control and Communications Structures in Southeast Asia 
(Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University, 1981 ) , pp. 113-1 4. DoD's quest for inexpensive satellite communications dur- 
ing the Vietnam War gave rise to the "30 circuits" episode. When several carriers learned in the summer of 1966 
that Comsat intended to lease 30 circuits directly to DoD, in direct violation of the FCC's recently promulgated 
"Authorized Users" decision, they formally protested. In February 1967, the FCC ordered a so-called composite 
rate of $7,100 per half-circuit, splitting the traffic evenly three ways among ITT, RCA, and Western Union 
International. The FCC required Comsat to sell the circuits to the carriers at $3,800. Kinsley, Outer Space and Inner 
Sanctums, pp. 60-62. 

8. Thomas Karas, The New High Ground: Strategies and Weapons of ^ace-Age War (New York: Simon and 
Schuster, 1983), pp. 73-76;Jacob Neufeld, The Air Force in Space, 1970-1974 (Washington, DC: Office of Air Force 
History, August 1976), pp. 15-19; Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 13-21; The 
Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, pp. 52-57; Martin, Communication Satellites, 
pp. 100-02. 

70 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

The orbital history of DSCS II satellites in the 1970s, beginning with the launch of the 
first pair on 2 November 1971, reveals a somewhat spotty performance record. A Titan 
IIIC booster failure accounted for the loss of two of the next six satellites; problems with 
stabilization, antenna pointing, and traveling-wave-tube amplifiers plagued the others. 
The Air Force responded by contracting with TRW for an additional six satellites of the 
original design, and later four more with forty-watt traveling-wave-tube amplifiers in place 
of the twenty-watt amplifiers. Despite another launch failure in March 1978 and contin- 
ued high-voltage arcing in the power amplifiers, by the early 1980s, the DSCS II constel- 
lation not only fulfilled global, strategic communications requirements through forty-six 
DSCS ground terminals, but also linked the Diplomatic Telecommunications System's 
fifty-two terminals and the Ground Mobile Forces' thirty-one tactical terminals. Perhaps 
the best example of the satellite's durability is that DSCS II B4, launched on 13 December 
1973, lasted four times longer than its design life. The Air Force did not turn it off until 
13 December 1993.^ 

The Air Force had been designing an improved DSCS III satellite since 1974 to meet 
the military's need for increased communications capacity, especially for mobile terminal 
users, and for greater survivability. General Electric's DSCS III differed considerably from 
its phase II predecessor. This third-generation satellite was three-axis stabilized, consider- 
ably heavier (2,475 pounds, or 1,123 kilograms, in orbit), and rectangular rather than 
cylindrical in shape (with dimensions of six by six by ten feet [1.8 by 1.8 by three meters] 
and a thirty-eight-foot [11.6 meter] span when the solar arrays were deployed). Its 1,000 
watts of battery power practically doubled that of DSCS II, as did its ten-year design life. 
Furthermore, DSCS III signaled a major technological advance by being the first opera- 
tional satellite to use electronically switched SHF multiple-beam antennas. The sixty-one- 
beam uplink antenna produced variable gain patterns from Earth coverage, to spot 
beams, to patterns with nulls in selected directions to counter jamming. The two down- 
link antennas used nineteen independently switched beams. A gimbaled dish, two horns, 
and two UHF antennas completed the array. Flexible antenna configurations combined 
with six transponders, which used forty-watt and ten-watt traveling-wave-tube amplifiers, 
offered a wide range of services to the growing wideband user community as well as to the 
ground-mobile force.'" 

The DSCS III satellite also carried a single-channel Air Force satellite UHF transpon- 
der with antijamming protection for secure voice communications during all levels of 
conflict. As with most DoD satellites, DSCS III had both an S-band section for use by the 
Air Force Satellite Control Network and an X-band section that provided redundant com- 
mand paths and gave Army personnel at eight ground stations worldwide direct control 
of the transponders and antennas. Beginning with the fourth satellite, the use of 
improved jam resistance, redundancy, and more powerful amplifiers enabled DSCS III to 
meet the military's growing requirements for increased capacity and survivability." 

9. Karas, The New High Ground, pp. 75-76; Neufeld, The Air Force in Space, pp. 15-19; Lee, History of the 
Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 15-28; The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, 
pp. 55-57; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 100-02. 

10. Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 29-32; Martin, Communication Satellites, 
pp. 111-13; Dwayne A. Day, "Capturing the High Ground: The U.S. Military in Space 1987-1995, Part 2," 
Countdown, May /June 1995, p. 18; Lt. Gen. Winston D. Powers and Andrew M. Hartigan, 'The Defense Satellite 
Communications System," Signal 39 (11) (July 1985): 53; Giles C. Sinkewiz, "Satellite Communications: 
Directions and Technology," Signal 59 (11) (July 1985): 60-62; A. Nejat Ince, ed., Digital Satellite Communications 
Systems and Technologies: Military and Civil Applications (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1992), pp. 368-69. 

11. Karas, The New High Ground, pp. 73-76; Neufeld, The Air Force in Space, pp. 15-19; Lee, History of the 
Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 13-21; The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, 
pp. 52-57; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 100-02. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 71 

The orbital history of DSCS III did not include the booster problems that had result- 
ed in the loss of four DSCS II satellites. On 30 October 1982, a Titan 34D/Inertial Upper 
Stage vehicle launched the first DSCS III satellite. Another two DSCS III satellites went 
aloft via the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1985. The C^a/^gCT- disaster and a series of Titan 34D 
failures then shut down launch operations for two years. Fortunately, the reliability of the 
DSCS system — and the exceptionally long life span of DSCS III and later DSCS II satel- 
lites — allowed the constellation to weather the launch crisis better than most other mili- 
tary satellite systems. The Air Force finally launched a fourth DSCS III satellite via a Titan 
34D/Transtage in 1989, after which Atlas II became the preferred launch vehicle. Not 
until 19 July 1993 did the Air Force complete a full, five-satellite DSCS III constellation. 
One measure, however, of the confidence that the Air Force has placed in the jam- 
resistant secure communications capability afforded by DSCS III satellites is that since 
December 1990, they have been the primary means for transmitting missile warning data 
from key worldwide sensor sites to correlation-and<ommand centers at Cheyenne 
Mountain and elsewhere.'^ 

The introduction of new heavy, medium, and light ground terminals beginning in the 
mid-1970s allowed the military to start phasing out aging equipment first deployed in the 
1960s and subsequently modified for use with DSCS II. Although DSCS III continued the 
practice of using terminals from the earlier system, the 1980s brought new terminals, 
including eight-foot (2.4-meter) and twenty-foot (six-meter) antennas for the ground- 
mobile forces. Meanwhile, work continued to convert the entire system from analog to 
digital transmission by the end of the decade. The DSCS III satellite program also bene- 
fited from a number of new Air Force acquisition practices. Faced with cost overruns and 
schedule slips, Air Force officials resorted to milestone billing, and they convinced 
Congress to approve the practice of multiyear procurement instead of annual buys.'^ 

A Fragmented Management System 

The fact that DSCS remained a Pentagon-managed system, with DCA, the Army, and 
the Air Force all playing roles in its day-to-day operation, indicated a much broader insti- 
tutional problem. Based on DoD Directive 5105.44 of 9 October 1973 and Joint Chiefs of 
Staff Memorandum of Policy 178 of 17 March 1975, management of military satellite com- 
munications systems remained fragmented among the Air Force, Navy, Army, and DCA. 
From the 1980s on, the U.S. military wrestled with that unwieldy situation in an effort to 
ensure more cost-efficient acquisition and more effective employment of resources 
through all levels of conflict. The strong tendency, however, since the earliest days of mil- 
itary satellite communications remained for each service to want its own system. That had 
been tempered partially during the 1970s by fiscal cutbacks and congressional pressure, 
which had caused all systems to become more "common user" despite their nomencla- 
ture. While technology helped achieve a higher degree of efficiency within an expanding 

12. Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 29-32; Martin, Communication Satellites, 
pp. 111-13; Day, "Capturing the High Ground," p. 18; AFSPACECOM/DOF to USSPACECOM/J3M, «< ai, 
"Designation of JRSC as Primary Communication System for Missile Warning Data," letter, 28 June 1991, with 
attachment: AFSPACECOM/DO to USSPACECOM/J3, et ai, "Designation of JRSC as Primary Communications 
System for Missile Warning Data," letter, 17 December 1990, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives, 
Colorado Springs, CO. 

13. Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 32-42. For major decisions associated 
with the future of DSCS, see Military Satellite Communications. Opportunity to Save Billions of Dollars, Report no. 
NSL\D-93-216 (Washington, DC: Government Accounting Office, 9 July 1993), pp. 9-11. 

72 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

user community (that is, the cost per capability dropped), the increasing sophistication of 
military satellite communications still led to dramatic price increases per satellite and 
required automated tracking, telemetry, and commanding instead of the old, manual 

While the creation of the Air Force Space Command in September 1982 signaled the 
Air Force's commitment to centralizing its space operations, the establishment of the U.S. 
Space Command three years later clearly offered an opportunity to vest managerial 
responsibility for all military satellite communications in one organizational chain. The 
translation of opportunity into reality, however, proved next to impossible. Despite various 
initiatives, the 1980s brought no definitive answers to the questions of whether the exist- 
ing military satellite communications management structure should be altered and, more- 
over, whether the existing acquisition alignment — that is, UHF for the Navy, SHF for DCA, 
and extremely high frequency (EHF) for the Air Force — should remain binding.'* 

The fussing, fuming, and fumbling over military satellite communications architec- 
tural arrangements and their implications continued into late 1990, with the assistant 
secretary of defense for command, control, communications, and intelligence finally 
directing DCA to take the lead in developing a suitable architecture. That task included 
considering the role of smaller and cheaper satellites, the potential for the increased use 
of commercial satellites, the achievement of U.S. and allied interoperability, and the pos- 
sibility of cooperative efforts to reduce developmental and operational costs. Almost 
simultaneously, efforts to develop a new memorandum of policy for military satellite com- 
munications management bogged down, after the Air Force Space Command complained 
that the new version failed to place DSCS executive management within the chain of com- 
mand of the U.S. Space Command's commander in chief; it left that responsibility in the 
hands of the Defense Information Systems Agency (the successor to DCA). Systematic 

14. DoD Directive 5105.44, 9 October 1973, established the Military Satellite Communications Systems 
Organization within DCA, provided for coordination of all service and agency efforts, and defined further the 
military communications satellite roles of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and assistant secretary of defense for telecom- 
munications (later changed to assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communicadons, and intel- 
ligence). The first revision of Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum of Policy 178, 1 May 1978, spelled out DCA's, 
and each service's, executive management responsibilities for military satellite systems. It contained criteria for 
specifying system interoperability and compatibility. A second revision of Memorandum of Policy 178, dated 4 
September 1986, directed that military communications satellite planning be integrated into the same planning 
process used for other resources. See Lt. Col. Fred Thourot, "MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] 
Deliberate Planning," Signal 41 (June 1987): 63-69; Maj. David J. Fitzgerald and Capt. Timothy G. Learn, 
"Influencing Satellite Design for Communications Management and Control of MILSATCOM [Military Satellite 
Communications] Through All Levels of Conflict," 5 March 1987, Air Force Space Command, History Office 
Archives, Colorado Springs, CO. 

15. Briefing, DCA/MSO, "The Alternative MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] 
Architectures Study," 23 February 1989, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives, Colorado Springs, 
CO. In early 1987, the U.S. Space Command began working with Air Staff, DCA, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to 
(1) formulate a policy concept establishing "single chain-of-command from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, through 
USSPACECOM [U.S. Space Command] and its components, to the MILSATCOM [Military Satellite 
Communications] operations centers" and (2) provide for three regional space support centers "to facilitate 
consolidated space operations planning, provide technical and planning assistance to CINCs [Commanders in 
Chief] and other users, and ensure coordinated employment of space systems." See USSPACECOM, "Concept 
for MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Commimications] Satellite Command and Control — Executive Summary," 
circa 20 August 1987, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives, Colorado Springs, CO. Near the end 
of 1987, the Federal Computer Performance Evaluation and Simulation Center, in response to an initiative from 
the Space Communications Division at Colorado Springs, awarded a support contract to Booz, Allen & Hamilton 
for developing a comprehensive military communications satellite information resources architecture "capable 
of providing a broad, unified framework into which existing and new systems" could evolve. See HQ SPCD/YK 
to 2 CS/DO, et al, "Award of MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] Information Resources 
Architecture (IRA) Contract," message, 031830Z February 1988, Air Force Space Command, History Office 
Archives, Colorado Springs, CO. 

Be\dnd the Ionosphere 73 

efforts to restructure fractionalized military satellite communications management, with 
the goal of centralizing all responsibilities under the U.S. Space Command and its 
component commands, failed. Entering the last decade of the twentieth century, the 
requirements process for military satellite communications seemed bankrupt; attempts at 
architectural definition bordered on the absurd; and system responsibilities remained 
split among the Air Force, Navy, Army, and Defense Information Systems Agency."* 

The Persian Gulf War experience of 1990-1991 made it apparent that the United 
States and its allies needed a fully integrated communications package for future crises. It 
could ill afford again to wait until after a crisis arose to assemble such a package. 
Moreover, an optimum communications network had to emphasize tactical rather than 
strategic requirements, the need for commercial satellite augmentation, and the impor- 
tance of a responsive launch capability." In the early 1990s, Air Force planners faced that 
reality, even as they focused on drastically restructuring the troubled Milstar (Military, 
Strategic, Tactical and Relay) program to trim costs and save it from cancellation. 


Milstar had emerged in the late 1970s from an Air Force proposal for a strategic satel- 
lite system to be called STRATSAT — a four-satellite constellation designed solely to sup- 
port nuclear forces. It would avoid potential anti-satellite threats by orbiting at a so-called 
supersynchronous altitude of about 110,000 miles, and it would operate in the EHF range 
to provide more band width for spread-spectrum, anti-jam techniques. Considered too 
ambitious for so limited a mission, STRATSAT gave way to Milstar in 1981. 

16. AFSPACECOM/XRFC, "Comments to Draft CJCS MOP 37," staff summary sheet, 25 October 1990; 
AFSPACECOM/LK to CV/CC, note, 28 November 1990, with ASD/C3I to Director, DCA, "Architecture for 
Military Satellite Communications," memorandum, 19 November 1990; Joe Mullins and Pravin Jain, Defense 
Information Systems y^ency, "Evolving MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] Architecture and 
Technology Directions," August 1991; AFSPACECOM/XPFC, "Review of Interim MILSATCOM [Military 
Satellite Communications] Summit Brief to CSAF," staff summary sheet, 15 November 1991, Air Force Space 
Command, History Office Archives. At the request of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space, the Air 
Force Space Command and the Air Force Systems Command already had begun a communications satellite 
architectural review in August 1990. See "AFSPACECOM Approach to MILSATCOM [Military Satellite 
Communications]," briefing, [1991], Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives. The U.S. Space 
Command's commander in chief agreed in early 1990 to assume from DCA administrative responsibility for the 
military communications satellite user requirements data base with the intention of delegating it to the Air Force 
Space Command "for definition and implementation of an automated support system." See USSPACECOM/J4- 
J6 to Joint Staff/J6, " Administrative Management of the MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] 
URDB," mess^e, 081245Z May 1990, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives. Measurable progress 
did occur during 1990-1992 with respect to aligning military communications satellite operational management 
under the U.S. Space Command and its component commands. Maj. Gen. Carl G. O'Berry, the U.S. Space 
Command's director for command control communications and logistics, as well as the Air Force Space 
Command's deputy chief of staff for systems integration, logistics and support, spearheaded efforts to move 
"Fleet Satellite Communications" responsibility from the naval communications organization to the Navy Space 
Command, reassign DSCS tracking, telemetry, and commanding and ground terminal activities to the Army 
Space Command, and transfer Air Force "Satellite Communications" control from the Strategic Air Command 
to Air Force Space Command. See Maj. Gen Carl G. O'Berry, interview with Rick W. Sturdevant and Thomas 
Fuller, U.S. Space Command Headquarters, 7 May 1992, Oral History Interview 92-1, pp. 1 1-13, Air Force Space 
Command, History Office Archives. 

17. Alan D. Campen, ed., The First Information War (Fairfax, VA: AFCEA International Press, 1992), pas- 
sim. That U.S. forces would have to rely heavily on communications satellites during any Persian Gulf conflict 
was recognized as early as the 1970s. See Paul B. Stares, Space and National Seairity (Washington, DC: Brookings 
Institution, 1987), pp. 127-28; Karas, The New High Ground, pp. 78-79. 


Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Figure 15 

The Milslar (Military, Strategic, Tactical and Relay) program received "Highest National Priority" status in 1983, but it 
underwent delays, redesigns, and cost overruns that angered a budget-cutting Congress. Consequently, the first Milstar satel- 
lite entered orbit in 1994, seven years after its projected launch. (Courtesy of the Air Force Space Command, History 

Air Force planners, viewing Milstar as capable of both strategic and tactical opera- 
tions, proceeded to add numerous requirements to meet more types of missions. 
President Reagan's assignment of "highest national priority" status to Milstar in 1983 
allowed the program to proceed with few funding restrictions. Similar to the Atlas inter- 
continental ballistic missile program in the 1950s, the development of the necessary 
"cutting edge" technology for Milstar and procurement, which included fielding the 
infrastructure for its operational support, proceeded concurrently. In the case of Milstar, 
unfortunately, those so-called "concurrency procedures" resulted in delays, redesigns, and 
cost overruns that drew the ire of an increasingly budget-conscious Congress."* 

Initially designed to provide low-data-rate EHF communication, the eight-satellite 
Milstar constellation offered cross-link capabilities and extensive hardening against radia- 
tion. The EHF range had the advantage of allowing for the use of antennas as small as six 

18. Government Accounting Office (GAO), DoD Acquisition. Case Study of the MILSTAR Satellite 
Communications System, Report No. NSIAD 86-455-15 (Washington, DC: GAO, 31 July 1986); GAO, Military 
Satellite Communications: Milstar Program Issues and Cost-Saving Opportunities, Report No. NSIAD-92-121 
(Washington, DC: GAO, 26 June 1992); Roger G. Guillemette, "Battlestar America: Milstar Survives A War With 
Congress," Countdoivn, November-December 1994, p. 22. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 75 

inches (about fifteen centimeters) in diameter, which suited highly mobile special opera- 
tions forces. Titan FV boosters would send four of the satellites into various polar orbits 
and the other four into geosynchronous orbits. Because the primary objective was surviv- 
ability, not high performance, the Milstar design did not include high data rates; each 
satellite was to serve no more than fifteen users simultaneously. As a result, it would sup- 
plement rather than replace existing satellites such as DSCS and Fleet Satellite 
Communications. " 

Milstar's original strategic orientation seemed anachronistic following the end of the 
Cold War. Operation Desert Storm during the Persian Gulf War reinforced interest in pro- 
moting Milstar's tactical capabilities, and the program underwent significant downsizing 
based on congressional demands and Pentagon reviews. By early 1994, Milstar included 
six rather than eight satellites, without the vast array of survivability features and with 
fewer ground control stations. The first block of two satellites, designated Milstar I, 
retained the limited-use low-data-rate capability, but subsequent Milstar satellites were to 
be equipped with a medium-data-rate package to support tactical forces. On 7 February 
1994, seven years after its projected launch, the first Milstar satellite went into orbit. The 
Air Force anticipated the launch of the first Milstar II satellite in 1999, with transition to 
a cheaper, lighter, advanced EHF Milstar III satellite by 2006. By the mid-1990s, despite its 
effective use in Haitian operations, it was still not known whether Milstar had the ability 
to provide survivable, jam-resistant, global communications to meet the needs of the 
national command authorities, battiefield commanders, and operational forces through 
all levels of conflict.^" 

Planning and Organizing for the Future 

The escalating costs of dedicated military satellite communications such as Milstar, 
combined with the inability of the United States during the Persian Gulf War to launch 
additional military communications satellites on demand, highlighted the need for using 
civil and commercial satellites and launchers in both peacetime and emergency situations. 
How to use commercial systems without jeopardizing congressional support for military 
satellite communications programs remained a major challenge. Moreover, the need for 
an effective integration of military and commercial networks presented yet another chal- 
lenge. The military sought to save money by finding alternatives to leasing individual com- 
munications satellite circuits, which is its historic policy. Although DoD could not readily 
identify its total current usage of commercial communications satellites, the consolidation 
of needs and procurement of greater overall capacity seemed worthwhile. The creation of 
a private military-managed network of commercial communications satellite assets had its 
proponents, but the idea foundered because the government could not operate in 
nongovernment radio frequency bands. Another alternative involved a "commercially 
equivalent" military satellite system that would use military radio frequencies and existing 
terminals. Such satellites would cost less and handle more traffic than satellites built to 
military specifications. They would offer features commonly found aboard military 

19. James W. Rawles, "Milstar Soars Beyond Budget and Schedule Goals," Defense Electtvnics 21 (February 
1989): 66-72; Guillemette, "Batdestar America," p. 19; Day, 'TransformaUon of National Security Space 
Programs in the Post-Cold War Era," paper read at 45th Congress of the International Astronautical Federation, 
9-14 October 1994, Jerusalem, Israel, pp. 1 1-12, copy from Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives. 

20. Guillemette, "Batdestar America," pp. 22-23; Day, "TransformaUon of Nadonal Security Programs," 
pp. 3-4; "Satcoms Success Story," Space Markets 4 (1991): 11-13. 

76 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

satellites (for example, steerable spot-beam antennas and secure telemetry and payload 
control links) but would lack the special survivability features of military models.^' 

By February 1994, when the Government Accounting Office (GAO) reported on the 
military's use of communications satellites, it was clear that the institutional barriers to 
efficient, effective military exploitation of commercial communications satellite capabili- 
ties remained. GAO recommended "establishing firm policy and procedures for 
Department of Defense components to coordinate their needs for these services through 
a central organization."^' A partial response came later in 1994 with the Pentagon's 
"Commercial Satellite Communications Initiative," in which the Defense Information 
Systems Agency set forth cost-saving concepts based on transponder leasing. DoD subse- 
quently drafted a "Military Satellite Communications Master Plan," recommending that 
commercial satellites be used extensively by the turn of the century for low-security mis- 
sions. Questions about the necessity of satellite survivability remained, however, and an 
increasingly vocal group of advocates touted the advantages of fiber optic cables over satel- 
lite technology for meeting future military communications needs. Others argued that 
the real point of discussion was the applicability of satellite and cable technology in 
particular situations. Despite lingering legislative restrictions on the military's use of com- 
mercial systems, the Pentagon relied on commercial carriers to handle most "general 
purpose" satellite traffic, which amounted to more than 80 percent of all DoD satellite 
communications requirements. That reliance undoubtedly would increase, because the 
military could not afford specially designed satellites to handle the five-fold growth in 
requirements expected between 1995 and 2010. It still seemed appropriate to route criti- 
cal command-and-control traffic, amounting to less than 20 percent of the total military 
traffic, over dedicated military communications satellites.-"* 

It was apparent by the mid-1990s that rapidly advancing communications technology, 
made readily available at relatively low cost by the commercial sector, offered the military 
an attractive alternative to increasingly expensive military satellite communications sys- 
tems. The greatest roadblocks lay in traditional, service-oriented attitudes and the linger- 
ing notion that only military satellite communications could be relied on to be available 

21. Lt. Col. Charles F. Stirling, "Commercial Communication Satellite Application During National 
Crisis Management," March 1985, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives; GAO, Military Satellite 
Communications: Potential for Greater Use of Commercial Satellite Capabilities, GAO Report No. T-NSIAD-92-39 
(Washington, DC: GAO, 22 May 1992). For background, see C.S. Lorens, DCA, "Concept DCS Commercial 
Satellite Communications System," 5 June 1981; HQ AFCC/EPPD to HQ USAF/XOKCP, et al, "DCS 
Commercial Satellite Communications (COMSATCOM) Program Update," letter, 10 March 1983, with two 
attachments; Commercial Satellite Survivability Task Force, Resource Enhancements Working Group, 
"Commercial Satellite Communications SurvivabiHty Report," 20 May 1983; Donald C. Latham, Deputy Under 
Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence, to Chairman, NSDD-97 
Steering Group, "Initial Report of the Manager, National Communications System (NCS), on Commercial 
Satellite Communications Survivability," memorandum, 21 May 1984, with attachment; SPACECMD/KRQS, 
"Use of Commercial Satellites during National Crisis," staff summary sheet, 2 November 1984, Air Force Space 
Command, History Office Archives. For a specific example of how ineffective management led to the inefficient 
use of commercial communications satellites, see "Space Command's Commercial Satellite Communications 
Program," U.S. Air Force Audit Agency Report, 2 November 1985, Air Force Space Command, History Office 

22. GAO, Military Satellite Communications: DoD Needs to Revieiv Requirements and Strengthen Leasing 
Practices, Report No. NSIAD-94-48 (Washington, DC: GAO, 24 February 1994), p. 7. 

23. Cheri Privor, "DoD Eyes Commercial Satellites," Space News 6 (12-18June 1995): 3, 37; R.C. Webb, 
Les Palkuti, Lew Cohn, Lt. Col. Glenn Kweder, and Al Costantine, 'The Commercial and Military Satellite 
Survivability Crisis," Defense Electronics 27 (August 1995): 21-25; Pat Cooper and Robert Holzer, "DoD Eyes 
Satellite Alternative," Space News 16 (7-13 August 1995): 1, 28; Donald L. Cromer, "Interoperability Is Key to 
Viability," Space News 6 (25 September-1 October 1995): 15. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 77 

with complete certainty during crises. Given this situation, Air Force leaders considered 
the time ripe to reassert their service's claim to military space leadership — a role also sug- 
gested by a number of respected civilian analysts. As Philip Gold, director of defense and 
aerospace studies at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and a lecturer at Georgetown 
University, summarized the situation: "Effective space control demands a revolution on 
the ground, a revolution in thinking, in procedures, and in relationships." He wrote that 
the Air Force, with 90 percent of all U.S. military space assets, should be charged with 
structuring and managing the overall military space program to meet the operational 
requirements of the other services, the unified commands, and DoD in general. In addi- 
tion, Gold recommended that the entire relationship among military, civil, and commer- 
cial space activities had to reflect that the era of massive technological military-to-civilian 
spinoffs had passed; technological advances in the commercial arena (namely, the shift to 
smaller, cheaper boosters and satellites) signaled the emergence of the civilian-to-military 
"spin-on" era. Despite such enormous obstacles as "governmental over-regulation, from 
excessive secrecy to surrealistic accounting," the "ponderous culture of weapons develop- 
ment," and concerns about security. Gold asserted that it was time to integrate the mili- 
tary and commercial space efforts.-^ 

The Air Force did take the initiative on centralizing military space requirements, of 
which satellite communications was a part, by focusing on systems acquisition. Arguing 
that multiple acquisition agencies had led to expensive, less effective capabilities, the Air 
Force in mid-1994 proposed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as to the 
other services, that it be designated executive agent for all space acquisition. The result- 
ing uproar left no doubt that interservice rivalry over space roles and missions continued 
to haunt the military space program. As Major General Robert S. Dickman, then director 
of space programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, 
commented, "I don't think anyone anticipated the depth of feelings — animosity may be a 
more descriptive term — that was evident in the service and joint staff objections."^-' 

Although the Air Force initiative withered under fire, it helped crystallize efforts to 
provide new and effective organizational changes. By the summer of 1995, DoD had cre- 
ated a deputy under secretary of defense for space, established a Joint Space Management 
Board to coordinate activities between the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, 
and designated a DoD space architect. The last became responsible for ensuring compat- 
ibility and smooth operations among the different military and commercial systems. 
Although filled by an Air Force officer. Major General Dickman, the position of space 
architect remained within the DoD's joint structure.-"' 

24. Philip Gold, "Space Control Blasts Off," Washington Times, 20 September 1995, p. 21. For corrobo- 
ration, see C. Michael Armstrong, The Paradox of Space Policy," Space News 6 (18-24 September 1995): 20; 
William B. Scott, "Military Space Reengineers," Aviation Week & Space Technology 141 (15 August 1994): 20. 

25. Maj. Gen. Robert S. Dickman, "Near Term Issues for the Air Force in Space," prepared remarks pre- 
sented at the symposium "The USAF in Space: 1945 to the Twenty-First Century," 21-22 September 1995, 
Washington, DC, p. 2, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives. 

26. Gen. John H. Tilelli,Jr., Army Vice Chief of Staff, to Dr. John Deutch, Deputy Secretary of Defense, 
"Organization and Management of Space Activities," memorandum, 26 July 1994, with two attachments; Gen 
Merrill A. McPeak, USAF Chief of Staff, "Presentation to the Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed 
Forces," 14 September 1994, pp. 185-199; Dr. John L. McLucas, "Space Policy," paper presented at the sympo- 
sium "The USAF in Space: 1945 to the Twenty-First Century," 21-22 September 1995, Washington, DC, p. 18, 
copy Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives; Andrew Lawler, "U.S. Lawmakers Urge Sole Military 
Space Chief," Defense News 8 ( 1 7-23 May 1993) : 10, 29; Steve Watkins, "Space Chiefs Assail McPeak Plan," Air Force 
Times 54 (18 April 1994): 3; Robert Holzer and Jason Glashow, "Control of U.S. Space Systems Spurs Service 

78 Creating S\stems: United States and Canada 


It is still too soon to assess the impact of the latest changes in the military space orga- 
nization. Many questions about the future of military satellite communications remain 
unanswered. Will Milstar provide effective strategic and tactical communications capabil- 
ity? To what extent, and in what way, should the Air Force rely on commercial augmenta- 
tion? Is a national, combined civil and military network feasible? Or, following the 
commercial sector's example, should the Air Force consider a constellation of many small, 
cheap satellites distributed widely in low-Earth orbit to solve the problems of both its grow- 
ing communications needs and the increasing overcrowding of the geosynchronous orbit? 
Moreover, how can any satellite communications system, whether military, civil, or com- 
mercial, be successful over time without responsive launch capability? 

For more than a generation, the fragmented nature of the space community has led 
to higher system costs, inefficient resource utilization, and the inability to achieve a clear 
operational (as opposed to research and development) focus for military activities in 
space. The new Pentagon organization represents a major effort to overcome these glar- 
ing deficiencies and, simultaneously, to accommodate the rapidly changing requirements 
of the 1990s. For the Air Force, the challenge is to work effectively within this joint struc- 
ture to preserve its capabilities and to provide the best possible space support to the 
warrior, no matter what the color of the uniform. If successful, the Air Force not only will 
preserve its leadership role in space, but it will contribute to ensuring a satellite commu- 
nications architecture that meets the military challenges of the twenty-first century. 

Duel," Space News 5 (8-14 August 1994): 1; Jason Glashow and Robert Holzer, "U.S. Services Stake Claims to 
Space Roles," Space NewsS (12-18 September 1994): 6; Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, USAF Chief of Staff, "Vying for 
Military Space Control," Space News 5 (26 September-2 October 1994): 15; Steve Weber, "Air Force Defends Plan 
to Control Pentagon Space Effort," Space News 5 (26 September-2 October 1994): 8; Theresa Hitchens, "USAF 
May Appoint Architect to Rebuild Space Program," Defense News 9 (31 October-6 November 1994): 14; Cheri 
Privor, "NRO Defers Role in Space Architect Office," Space News 6 (17-23 April 1995): 4. 

Chapter 8 

Thirty Years of Space 

Communications Research and 

Development at Lincoln Laboratory^ 

by William W. Ward and Franklin W. Floyd 

Today, we take for granted the availability of global high-capacity communications cir- 
cuits. Satellites and cables bring us information and entertainment from almost anywhere. 
It was not always this way. In the mid-1950s, for example, transatlantic communications 
relied on several teletype cables, a few dozen voice channels via cables equipped with vac- 
uum-tube repeaters, high-frequency radio (roughly three to thirty megahertz), and the 
physical transport of messages by plane or ship. The rest of the world was not even that 
well equipped. 

The high-frequency medium always has challenged communications engineers. 
Under favorable conditions, it provides global point-to-point communications by using 
relatively small, low-power transmitting and receiving equipment. However, natural phe- 
nomena often interfere with high-frequency links, and during war ("cold" or "hot"), they 
become targets for jamming. Nevertheless, high frequency was the only game in town in 
the 1950s. As a result, communications for the command and control of U.S. strategic 
forces worldwide were lacking. 

The goal of the space communications program of Lincoln Laboratory at the 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was and remains the development of reliable, 
affordable systems of military communications. The program's initial objective simply was 
to make long-range military communications routinely available — first for large, fixed ter- 
minals and then for small, mobile ones. After that objective was reached, the emphasis 
shifted toward making communications systems capable of functioning, despite the most 
determined efforts by an adversary to interfere with them by jamming or by physical attack. 

Project West Ford 

The immediate impetus for Lincoln Laboratory's first work in space communications 
came from the HARDTACK series of high-altitude nuclear tests carried out in the Pacific 
Ocean near Johnston Island in August 1958. The first detonation destroyed the ionos- 
phere over a vast area around the test site and interrupted many high-frequency radio 
communications links, because high-frequency radio signals travel by reflecting off the 

1. The unabridged version of this paper originally appeared as William W. Ward and Franklin W. 
Floyd, "Thirty Years of Research and Development in Space Communications at Lincoln Laboratory," The Lincoln 
Laboratory Journal 2(\) (1989): 5-34. The authors are indebted to many people inside and outside Lincoln 
Laboratory for their assistance in the preparation of this history of Lincoln Laboratory's space communications 
program and are proud to have had the opportunity to chronicle their accomplishments. The authors especial- 
ly acknowledge the Lincoln Laboratory Library — and the Archives Department in particular. 


Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

lower surface of the ionosphere. In particular, the loss of high-frequency radio halted 
commercial transpacific air transport. The military implications of a high-frequency radio 
communications failure at a critical time were obvious. 

Walter Morrow, at Lincoln Laboratory, and Harold Meyer, then with TRW, considered 
the problem of high-frequency radio communications failures during the Army's Project 
Barnstable Summer Study in 1958. They suggested that if natural phenomena, such as 
solar storms, or thermonuclear detonations disabled the ionosphere as a radio reflector, 
then an orbiting artificial reflector could replace the ionosphere. Just prior to this, both 
the Soviet Union and the United States had demonstrated the ability to place satellites in 
orbit, so the idea seemed feasible. 

Morrow and Meyer proposed creating an artificial ionosphere consisting of a pair of 
belts (one circular polar and one circular equatorial) of resonant scatterers in orbit a few 
thousand kilometers above the Earth's surface. The scatterers in each belt would be con- 
ducting lengths of wire that would resonate at the system's operating wavelength and 
therefore reflect radio signals — the smaller the wires, the shorter the wavelength, and the 
easier their distribution from an orbiting dispenser. If the wires were too small, designing 
adequate transmitters and receivers would become excessively difficult. 

Subsequently, Lincoln Laboratory proposed an experiment to demonstrate transcon- 
tinental communications by sending full-duplex (that is, simultaneously in both direc- 
tions) transmissions between terminals in Camp Parks, California, and Westford, 
Massachusetts. The orbiting wires would act as half-wave dipoles and resonate at about 
eight gigahertz; communications would be transmitted at 7,750 and 8,350 megahertz. 
Each scatterer would be a 0.7-inch (about 1.8-centimeter) length of #53 AWG copper wire 
(0.0007 inch, or about 0.0018 centimeters, in diameter). The experiment required that 
about 480 million of these forty-microgram dipoles (nineteen kilograms of copper total) 
be distributed into circular polar orbits at an altitude of about 3,600 kilometers. The aver- 
age separation between dipoles would be roughly 0.3 kilometer. 

Recognizing that a proposal to place vast numbers of anything in orbit would be con- 
troversial, Lincoln Laboratory designed the proposed experiment. Project West Ford, to 
ensure that the experimental belt would not endure. The pressure of incident solar radi- 
ation on the orbiting dipoles would change their orbits, so that the perigee of each revo- 
lution would move steadily downward. Before long, the orbits would start to dip into the 
thin upper atmosphere, and atmospheric resistance would slow the dipoles enough that 
they would fall to the ground. Thus the belt would be removed from orbit within a few 
years after launch.^ 

Lincoln Laboratory unveiled Project West Ford in 1960 in virtually complete detail, 
even though the planned experiment was originally secret. It was particularly important 
to allay the concerns of optical and radio astronomers and other scientists who perceived 
the experimental belt as potentially harmful, causing interference with scientific observa- 
tions and auguring worse experiments to come.' The experiment originally bore the 
name Project Needles, and renaming it Project West Ford did little to still the clamor from 
both sides of the Iron Curtain.^ Ultimately, reason prevailed, and presidential approval was 
given for Project West Ford launches, although limited to the bare minimum. 

2. For background on the program, see "Project West Ford" in Compendium of Communication and 
Broadcast Satellites, 1958 to 1980 (New York: Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), 1981), pp. 
299-302; Donald H. Martin, "West Ford," in Communication SatelliUs 1959-1988 (El Segundo, CA: Aerospace 
Corporation, 1988), pp. 8-9. 

3. "Project West Ford Issue," Proceedings of the IEEE 52 ( 1964) : 449-606. 

4. Petr Beckmann, Eco-Hysterics and the Technophobes (Boulder, CO: Golem Press, 1973), pp. 91-92. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 81 

On 21 October 1961, the first experiment was launched, piggybacked on another pay- 
load, into circular polar orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, but it was unsuccessful; 
the dipoles failed to deploy. Then, on 8 May 1963, a second launch with an improved dis- 
pensing arrangement achieved a substantial degree of success. The belt formed and 
closed over a period of about forty days. Its estimated density was five dipoles per cubic 
kilometer. The effectiveness of the scatterers proved greater in the early stages of belt for- 
mation, when the dipoles were less spread out, and permitted communication data rates 
of up to 20,000 bits per second. As the months and years passed, the belt became less 
effective for scatter communications — testimony that it was indeed cleaning itself out of 
orbit. By early 1966, the removal process was essentially complete.* 

Project West Ford was an undeniable success, but it had little impact in terms of oper- 
ational employment. Communication via passive satellites, such as the West Ford dipoles, 
required users to make large investments in complex terminals and provided only limited 
capabilities. The success of active communications satellites, beginning with AT&T's 
Telstar 1 in 1962, swept the field. Now and then, though, the vulnerability of convention- 
al satellite communications to radio-frequency interference, whether intentional or not, 
is brought forcibly to everyone's attention. Furthermore, most satellites in orbit are frag- 
ile and thus \Tilnerable to physical attack. Therefore, Lincoln Laboratory has focused its 
work in active-satellite space communications on the development of robust systems that 
function reliably in the face of formidable levels of interference. However, the lesson of 
Project West Ford — that point-to-point scatter communications at limited data rates can 
be extremely survivable — should not be forgotten. 

Space Communications at Superhigh Frequency 

Following Project West Ford, Lincoln Laboratory embarked on a program to improve 
the design of active satellites. In most cases, the downlink signal (from a satellite to a sur- 
face terminal) is the "weak link" in satellite communications. An uplink can be strength- 
ened by increasing the power of a surface transmitter. In contrast, a satellite downlink 
must be strengthened by accomplishing a more difficult task: the maximization of the 
effective isotopically radiated power per unit mass in orbit. To address this downlink prob- 
lem, Lincoln Laboratory set out to develop high-efficiency spacecraft transmitters in the 
downlink frequency band. Improved antennas offered an additional benefit. If the space- 
craft attitude-control system linked to a high-gain spacecraft antenna could position the 
antenna within the required beam-pointing range, both downlinks and uplinks would 
benefit. A series of Lincoln Experimental Satellites (LES) launched between 1965 and 
1976 addressed these and other spacecraft-related technological questions. 

High-efficiency systems of modulation and demodulation, together with recent 
advances in encoding and decoding signals for detection and correction of errors, 
promised significant advantages for communications terminals. Also needed were inter- 
ference-resistant, multiple-access signaling techniques that permitted the simultaneous 
use of a satellite by tens or hundreds of users, some of them mobile, without involving 
elaborate systems for synchronization and centralized control. These and other terminal- 
related problems were addressed by a series of Lincoln Experimental Terminals (LET) 
that went hand in hand with the LES. 

Irwin I. Shapiro, "Last of the West Ford Dipoles," Science 154 (1966): 1445. 


Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Figure 16 

Lincoln Laboratory launched LES-I in 1965. Compelling the selection of the satellite's frequency band was the availability of 
superhigh-frequency technology developed for Project West Ford (also known as Project Needles), an attempt to establish jam- 
proof military communications via a band of orbiting dipoles. (Courtesy of Lincoln Laboratory, photo no. CP202-76) 

Bevond the Ionosphere 83 

Lincoln Laboratory's space communications program after Project West Ford began in 
1963 with a charter to build and demonstrate military space communications systems.* The 
initial program objective was to build, launch, and field a LES and a LET that would work 
together as a system and demonstrate practical military satellite communications. The avail- 
ability of Project West Ford's advanced superhigh-frequency (SHE) technology (at seven to 
eight gigahertz) contributed to the decision to design LES-1 and LET-1 for that band. The 
Department of Defense's concurrent procurement of a series of SHF satellites and termi- 
nals, commencing with the Initial Defense Communications Satellite Program (IDCSP),' 
meant that lessons learned from LES-1 and LET-1 would find an additional application. 

LES-1, launched from Cape Canaveral on 11 February 1965, accomplished only a few 
of its objectives. Apparently because of miswiring of the ordnance circuitry, the satellite 
never left circular orbit and ceased transmitting in 1967. LES-2, the twin of LES-1 ," fared 
much better; it achieved its planned final orbit on 6 May 1965. The operation with 
LET-P was successful and commenced the morning after launch. 

The next step in Lincoln Laboratory's program in space communications was to park 
a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. LES-4 was built to fulfill that mission. The satellite was 
an outgrowth of LES-1 and -2, but it featured more solar cells and a larger array of Sun 
and Earth sensors.'" LES-4 carried an instrument for measuring spatial and temporal vari- 
ations of the energy spectrum of trapped electrons encountered in orbit. This instrument 
was added to provide information both for scientific interest and to aid the design of 
future spacecraft. 

A Titan IIIC booster was to carry LES-4 and its companion, LES-3 (described in the 
next section), to a near-geosynchronous altitude and deposit them in circular, near- 
equatorial orbits. Unfortunately, the booster failed to finish its job, leaving these satellites 
stranded in their transfer ellipses. This disappointment, however, had its bright side. 
LES-4's repeated trips between perigee (195 kilometers) and apogee (33,700 kilometers) 
gave it many opportunities to measure the radiation environment over a wide range of 
altitudes." Also, its communications system seemed to be working as well as it could under 
the handicap of being in the wrong orbit. Ultimately, as with the West Ford dipoles, the 
pressure of solar radiation caused the perigee of LES-4's orbit to descend into the upper 
atmosphere, and it burned up. 

Lincoln Laboratory's accomplishments in SHF space communications opened up a 
part of the electromagnetic spectrum that remains heavily used today. In fact, succeeding 

6. Walter E. Morrow, Jr., The Lincoln Experimental Communications Satellite and Terminal 
Program," AIAA 2nd Communications SatelliU Systems Conference, San Francisco, 8-10 April 1 968, AIAA Paper 68-429 
(New York: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1968) ; Herbert Sherman, Donald C. MacLellan, 
and Philip Waldron, The Lincoln Satellite Technology Program through 1 January 1968: An Annotated Bibliography, 
Lincoln Laboratory Technical Report 450 (Lexington, MA: Lincoln Laboratory, 12 June 1968), DTIC #AD- 

7. "IDCSF" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 167-70; Martin, "West Ford," 
pp. 75-76. 

8. Herbert Sherman, Donald C. MacLellan, R.M. Lerner, and Philip Waldron, "Lincoln Experimental 
Satellite Program (LES-1, -2, -3, A)," Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets 4 (1967): 1448-52; "LES-1 or -2 (Identical)" 
in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 175—77. 

9. John W. Craig, et al. The Lincoln Experimental Terminal, Lincoln Laboratory Technical Report 431 
(Lexington, MA: Lincoln Laboratory, 21 March 1967), DTIC #AD-661577. 

10. Sherman, MacLellan, Lerner, and Waldron, "Lincoln Experimental Satellite Program (LES-1, -2, -3, 
-4)"; "LES^," in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 183-85; Martin, "West Ford," pp. 14-15; 
J. Bruce Rankin, Mark E. Devane, and Milton L. Rosenthal, "Multi-function Single-Package Antenna System for 
Spin-Stabilized Near-Synchronous Satellite," IFFF. Transactions on Antennas and Propagation AP-1 7 (1969) : 435-42. 

1 1 . Alan G. Stanley and Jean L. Ryan, Charged-Particle Radiation Environment in Synchronous Ortrit, Lincoln 
Laboratory Technical Report 443 (Lexington, MA: Lincoln Laboratory, 15 May 1968), DTIC #AD-677284. 

84 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

generations of SHF satellites now form the space segment of the Defense Satellite 
Communications System (DSCS). 

Space Communications at Ultrahigh Frequency 

Although LES-1, -2, and -4 showed the capabilities of SHF for reliable communica- 
tions between fairly massive terminals, these technologies were not immediately available 
to small tactical units, such as vehicles, ships, aircraft, and specialized ground troops, all 
of which needed direct, dependable communications. Only a large command-post air- 
plane or a sizable ship could be equipped with an SHF terminal capable of working with 
the DSCS satellites in orbit or those planned for the immediate future. 

Moreover, because high levels of SHF radio power could not be generated in the satel- 
lites, the downlink continued to limit system performance. Each terminal's antenna aper- 
ture had to be large enough to capture the downlink signal, and the price paid for a large 
antenna aperture was a narrow antenna beam that had to be pointed directly toward the 
satellite. Small tactical units, especially those in motion, could not accommodate such an 
antenna system. 

Communications links at much lower frequencies in the military UHF (ultrahigh- 
frequency) band (225 to 400 megahertz) solved the downlink problem. Solid-state circuits 
could generate substantial amounts of UHF power in a satellite.'^ A relatively uncompli- 
cated low-gain terminal antenna could provide a broad beam, thereby simplifying the task 
of pointing an antenna in the direction of the satellite, as well as a sizable aperture. Such 
antennas were particularly appealing for aircraft.''' UHF terminals also promised to be 
comparatively simple and inexpensive, and they could be produced in large numbers. 

The feasibility of satellite communications at longer wavelengths was demonstrated at 
VHF by Hughes Aircraft Company on 8 May 1964. The company used teletype-rate sig- 
naling (60 words per minute) through the Syncom 2 satellite from one ground terminal 
to another nearby.'^ On 27 January 1965, teletype-rate satellite communication to and 
from an airplane in flight was demonstrated by using the Syncom 3 satellite, operating in 
the same mode as Syncom 2, and a ground terminal at Camp Parks, California.''^ NASA's 
ATS-1 satellite, launched in December 1966, also participated in experiments of this sort. 

In 1965, the Department of Defense established Tri-Service Program 591 (Tactical 
Satellite Communications) to enable the Army, Navy, and Air Force to evaluate the poten- 
tial usefulness of satellite communications in the military UHF band. Lincoln Laboratory 
was chosen to provide the satellites essential to the test program. LES-5 was to be built and 
launched as soon as possible; LES-6 would incorporate improvements on LES-5 and would 
be launched a year later. The three military services would procure test terminals that 
would work with LES-5 and -6 and would arrange for their installation in ships and aircraft. 

12. David M. Snider, "A Theoretical Analysis and Experimental Confirmation of the Optimally Loaded 
and Over-Driven RF Power Amplifier," IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices ED-14 (1967): 851-57; Alvise Braga- 
lUa and David M. Snider, 'Transmitted-Power Maximization in Communication Satellites," /oMrnaZ of Spacecraft 
and Rockets & (1969): 173-77. 

13. C.A. Lindberg, "A Shallow-Cavity UHF Crossed-Slot Antenna," IEEE Transactions on Antennas and 
Propagation AP-n (1969): 558-63. 

14. L.A. Greenbaum and R.A. Boucher, "VHF Teletype Demonstrations," Hughes Aircraft Co., Ref. 
2230.3/152 (23 June 1964), NASA-CR-57989 (contractor's report). 

15. Allen L.Johnson, 'Two Hundred Years of Airborne Communications," Aerospace Historian 31 (1984): 
185-93; VHF Aircraft Satellite Relay— Final Report of Flight Test, Report No. 481-1016-958 (Baltimore: Bendix Radio 
Division, April 1965). 

Beyond the Ionosphere 86 

Lincoln Laboratory carried out two programs to measure the characteristics of the 
UHF environment. In the first program, receiving equipment was installed in aircraft and 
flown over representative cities and varied terrains, and the ambient radio noise was 
measured.'* In the second program, propagation phenomena between satellites and air- 
borne terminals were examined. For this second program, LES-3 was built in haste, using 
technology from LES-1, -2, and -4, and was launched along with LES-4 on 21 December 

LES-3" was essentially an orbiting signal generator, emitting a signal near 233 mega- 
hertz."* Given the degree of smoothness of the planet's surface relative to the one-meter 
wavelength of 300 megahertz (the middle of the military UHF band), much of its surface 
is mirrorlike. As a result, electromagnetic waves could be propagated between the satellite 
and the airborne terminal by more than one path. By knowing the likely parameters of 
the signal delays, the communications system designers were able to construct modulation 
and demodulation circuits that would not be confounded by multipath-propagation 

As mentioned, booster problems trapped LES-3 and LES-4 in transfer ellipses, instead 
of equatorial near-geosynchronous orbits. The actual orbit of LES-3 did permit the gath- 
ering of multipath-propagation data over a wide variety of terrains, and it gave the Lincoln 
Laboratory test team a reason to fly to exotic destinations to receive LES-3 signals reflect- 
ed by representative types of terrain. As with LES-4, LES-3 ultimately reentered the atmos- 
phere and disintegrated. LES-5, launched on 1 July 1967, and LES-6, launched on 26 
September 1968, shared a strong family resemblance.'^ To sum up, satellite communica- 
tions in the military UHF band worked well. The tri-service terminals aboard aircraft and 
ships and in the field communicated readily through the orbiting LES-5.^" 

LES-6 and the Hughes-built UHF/SHF TACSAT^' (launched 9 February 1969) placed 
substantial communications resources in geostationary orbit, and the Department of 
Defense procured large quantities of UHF terminals. Because more than two satellites 
were needed for worldwide coverage, a series of satellites, including Gapfiller 

16. George Ploussios, "Electromagnetic Noise Environment in the 200 MHz to 400 MHz Band on Board 
Aircraft," Proceedings of the IFFF. 54 (1966) : 201 7-19; George Ploussios, "City Noise and Its Effect upon Airborne 
Antenna Noise Temperatures at UHF," IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems P^SSA (1968): 41-51; 
George Ploussios, Noise Temperatures of Airborne Antennas at UHF, Lincoln Laboratory Technical Note 1966-59 
(Lexington, MA: Lincoln Laboratory, 6 December 1966), DTIC #AD-644829. 

17. Sherman, MacLellan, Lerner, and Waldron, "Lincoln Experimental Satellite Program (LES-1, -2, -3, 
-4)"; "LES 3" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 179-81. 

18. Kenneth L. Jordan, Jr, "Measurement of Multipath Effects in a Satellite/Aircraft UHF Link," 
Proceedings of the IEEE bb (1967): 1117-18. 

19. William W. Ward and Burt E. Nichols, Lincoln Experimental Satellite-5 (LES-5) Transponder Performance 
in Orbit, Lincoln Laboratory Technical Note 1968-18 (Lexington, MA: Lincoln Laboratory, 1 November 1968), 
DTIC #AD-686421; Donald C. MacLellan, Hugh A. MacDonald, Philip Waldron, and Herbert Sherman, "Lincoln 
Experimental Satellites 5 and 6," in Nathaniel E. Feldman and Charles M. Kelly, eds.. Progress in Astronautics and 
Aeronautics, Vol. 26, Communication Satellites for the Seventies: Systems (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1971), 
pp. 375-98; "LES-5" and "LES-6" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 187-93; William L. 
Black, Bradford Howland, and Edward A. Vrablik, "An Electromagnetic Attitude-CJontrol System for a 
Synchronous Satellite," yourwa/ of Spacecraft and Rockets 6 (1969): 795-98; Milton L. Rosenthal, Mark E. Devane, 
and Bernard F. LaPage, "VHF Antenna Systems for Spin-Stabilized Satellites," IEEE Transactions on Antennas and 
Propagation AP-\7 (1969): 443-51. 

20. Irwin L. Lebow, Kenneth L. Jordan, Jr., and Paul R. Drouilhet, Jr., "Satellite Communications to 
Mobile Platforms," Proceedings oftheIEFF.59 (1971): 139--59. 

21. "TACSAT" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 225-27; Martin, "West Ford," 
pp. 77-78. 

86 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

(MARISAT),^^ FLTSAT (U.S. Air Force satellite communications) ,2' and LEASAT/^ were 
launched. A new series, UHF Follow-On (UFO) satellites, is now under development. Use 
of the UHF spectrum for military satellite communications is by no means limited to the 
Pentagon. The Soviet Union has announced a series of Volna ("Wave") satellites that 
incorporate UHF uplinks and downlinks,^^ and the United Kingdom has included UHF 
provisions in its series of Skynet 4 satellites, the first of which was launched on 
10 December IGSS.^*^ Although it is very difficult to defend a communications satellite with 
a UHF uplink against a determined jamming attack, the relative simplicity and compara- 
tive cheapness of UHF military satellite communications terminals make this part of the 
spectrum highly attractive, and it is likely to remain in use for a long time. 

Multiple-Beam Antennas 

LES-l, -2, and -4 showed that the SHF band could provide reliable communications 
within certain limitations. The antenna systems on these satellites were small in terms of 
wavelength, and their beams were much larger than Earth coverage (which is about 18 
degrees from synchronous altitude) . The next level of sophistication in SHF space com- 
munications was a satellite antenna system with a mechanically pointable, less-than-Earth- 
coverage beam. This advancement was achieved through the governmental procurement 
of communications satellites, such as the second generation of the DSCS satellites (the 
TRW DSCS II series) .-' Lincoln Laboratory undertook the task of developing and demon- 
strating, in orbit, an antenna system that could allow satellite operators to aim the trans- 
mitting (downlink) power to receivers and simultaneously reduce the receiving (uplink) 
sensitivity in directions that might include sources of jamming or other interference. 

Such an antenna system can be built in two ways. In the phased-array approach, many 
separate transmit and/or receive modules (each of which has a beam width much larger 
than Earth coverage) are controlled individually in amplitude and phase, so that the sum 
of their signals — a result of constructive and destructive interference — approximates the 
desired transmitting or receiving antenna pattern covering the Earth. In the multiple- 
beam-antenna approach, many separate antenna feeds form a dense set of narrow pencil 
beams covering the Earth. The signals from this collection of beams are adjusted in ampli- 
tude and phase ("weighted") and combined to approximate the desired antenna pattern. 
Each approach has its merits and shortcomings, and the appropriate choice depends on 
the application. 

Lincoln Laboratory began a program to demonstrate, in orbit, a nineteen-beam (mul- 
tiple-beam) antenna for reception at SHF. An Earth-coverage horn was to be used for the 
transmission. The thirty-inch-diameter (seventy-six-centimeter-diameter) aperture of the 
receiving antenna yielded a nominal three-degree resolution throughout the cone sub- 
tended by the Earth from geosynchronous-satellite altitude. The ground control terminal 

22. "MARISAT" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 51-53; Martin, "West Ford," 
p. 84. 

23. "FLTSATCOM" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 159-61; Martin, "West 
Ford," pp. 87-90. 

24. "LEASAT" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 171-73; Martin, "West Ford," 
pp. 93-95. 

25. "Volna 1 through 7 Series" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 87-89; MarUn, 
"West Ford," pp. 104-05. 

26. "Skynet-4" in Martin, "West Ford," p. 95. 

27. "DSCS-II" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 151-53; Martin, "West Ford," 
pp. 80-82. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 87 

was to calculate the weights for the individual beams to approximate the desired antenna 
pattern and to transmit the weights to the satellite by telecommand. 

The multiple-beam antenna, which was kept facing the Earth by the attitude control 
system, dominated the configuration of LES-7. Solar cell arrays followed the Sun to 
collect energy as LES-7 revolved in orbit. Work got under way to develop the satellite bus, 
which consisted of structure and housekeeping systems, power, propulsion, attitude con- 
trol, thermal control, telemetry, and telecommand, in parallel with the development of 
the multiple-beam antenna and associated communications systems.^" 

By early 1970, it became apparent that LES-7 was ahead of its time. Because there was 
not enough Pentagon support for the mission, the funding required for the satellite's 
development, launch, and evaluation in orbit was not available. With considerable regret, 
Lincoln Laboratory put aside the LES-7 flight program, but it developed the critical mul- 
tiple-beam-antenna technology "on the bench" and at an antenna test range. ^® In time, the 
multiple-beam-antenna concept was applied to the third generation of the DSCS satellites. 
Each General Electric-built DSCS III carries three multiple-beam antennas: two nineteen- 
beam SHF antennas for transmission and one sixty-one-beam SHE antenna for reception. 

Space Communications at Extremely High Frequency 

Lincoln Laboratory developed and built for the Department of Defense a pair of 
experimental communications satellites, LES-8 and -9, designed to operate in coplanar, 
inclined, circular, geosynchronous orbits and to communicate with each other via inter- 
satellite links (cross-links), as well as with fixed and mobile terminals.'" Uplinks, down- 
links, and intersatellite links at extremely high frequency (EHF) augmented the military 
UHF band. The EHF band held out the promise of abundant band width to accommo- 
date many simultaneous users and spread-spectrum systems of modulation and demodu- 
lation for anti-jamming communications links. For reasons of convenience, operating fre- 
quencies in the Ka-band (thirty-six to thirty-eight gigahertz) were selected. 

Intersatellite links in the range of fifty-five to sixty-five gigahertz would have been 
desirable, because the absorption by oxygen molecules would attenuate signals passing 
through the atmosphere. However, it soon became apparent that the technology of 1971, 
on which LES-8 and -9 had to be based, would not support such an enterprise. Very little 
test equipment was commercially available for frequencies above forty gigahertz. 
Therefore, attention focused on the development of the needed components and subsys- 
tems at the Ka-band.*' 

One of the strengths of Lincoln Laboratory's space communications program is that 
it encompasses the development of both terminals and satellites under one roof. The 
transmission and reception for satellite lines providing substantial anti-jamming capabili- 
ty, such as those links through LES-8 and -9, are complex when compared to links that rely 

28. "LES 7" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 195-97; Martin, "West Ford," p. 17. 

29. Andre R. Dion and Leon J. Ricardi, "A Variable-Coverage Satellite Antenna System," Proceedings of the 
ZE££59 (1971): 252-62. 

30. Frederick W. Sarles, Jr., Leonard W. Bowles, L.P. Farnsworth, and Philip Waldron, The Liacoln 
Experimental Satellites LES-8 and LES-9," IEEE Electronics and Aerospace Systems Convention (EASCON), 
Arlington, Va., 1977, Eascon-77 Record, p. 21-lA, IEEE no. 77CH1255-9; "LES 8 and 9" in Compendium of 
Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 199-206; Martin, "West Ford," pp. 31-33. 

31. F John Solman, Carl D. Berglund, Richard W. Chick, and Brian J. Clifton, "The K Systems of the 
Lincoln Experimental Satellites LES-8 and LES-9," AIAA Paper 78-562, A Collection of Technical Papers: AIAA 7th 
Communications Satellite Systems Conference, San Diego, California, April 24-27, 1978 (New York: AIAA, 1978), p. 
208-15. This paper contains a bibliography of other papers on K-band technology for LES-8 and -9. It also 
appeared in foumal of Spacecraft and Rockets 16 (1979): 181-86. 

Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

on unprotected transponders, such as the links through the earlier LES. It would be very 
difficult if the space and terrestrial segments of a modern military satellite communica- 
tions system were developed separately and their first operating encounter took place 
after launch. Lincoln Laboratory conducted extensive end-to-end testing of communica- 
tions lines before launch, including the terminals that Lincoln Laboratory developed and 
those developed by the Air Force and the Navy. The generally smooth course of testing in 
orbit owed much to the prelaunch testing at Lincoln Laboratory.'^ 

The LES-8 and -9 intersatellite links successfully addressed the key technical problems 
that confront the implementation of satellite-to-satellite communications." LES-8 and -9 
were launched together on 14 March 1978 aboard a Titan IIIC booster. Their launch was 
tailored to suit the companion Naval Research Laboratory Solrad Ila and Solrad lib satel- 
lites and to facilitate the evaluation of specialized gyroscopes designed by the Charles 
Stark Draper Laboratory that LES-8 and -9 carried as flight experiments.^'' LES-8 and -9 are 
powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) and have no solar cells or bat- 
teries. The design of the RTGs had to assure their physical integrity in the event of a 
launch failure, so that the potential environmental hazard would be acceptable. During 
compatibility tests and preparations for launch, Lincoln Laboratory had to develop spe- 
cial procedures and pay scrupulous attention to health factors to ensure that workers 
would not be overexposed to particle radiation.'"* The RTGs were well worth the effort. 
The compatibility of these rugged power sources with complex signal-processing circuitry 
has been well established. These RTGs are similar to the ones that power the Voyager 
spacecraft, which have been exploring the outer planets and beyond since 1977. 

LES-8 and -9 represent the high-water mark to date of Lincoln Laboratory's program 
in space communications. In addition to their complex communications system, these 
satellites have systems and subsystems for housekeeping functions, including attitude con- 
trol,"* onboard (secondary) propulsion," telemetry,'" and telecommand. Lincoln 

32. L.J. Collins, L.R. Jones, David R. McElroy, David A. Siegel, William W. Ward, and David K. Willim, 
"LES-8/9 Communications-System Test Results," AIAA Paper 78-599, A Collection of Technical Papers: AIAA 7th 
Communications Satellite Systems Conference, San Diego, California, April 24-27, 1978 (New York: AIAA, 1978), 
p. 471-78. 

33. David M. Snider and David B. Coomber, "Satellite-to-Satellite Data Transfer and Control," AIAA 
Paper 78-596, A Collection of Technical Papers: AIAA 7th Communications Satellite Systems Conference, San Diego, 
California, April 24-27, 1978 (New York: AIAA, 1978), p. 457; William W. Ward, David M. Snider, and Ronald F. 
Bauer, "A Review of Seven Years of Orbital Service by the LES-8/9 EHF Intersatellite Links," IEEE International 
Conference on Communications: Integrating Communication for World Progress, Boston, MA, 19-22 June 1983 
(Piscataway, NJ: IEEE, 1983), pp. El. 1.1-10. 

34. Lawrence J. Freier, R.N. Masters, J.A. DeFrancesco, R.A. Harris, GJ. Blakemore, and R.A. Jeffery, 
Third-Generation Gyro System Final Report, Report R-843 1, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., February 1975. 

35. C.E. Kelly and C.W. Whitmore, "Performance of the Multi-Hundred-Watt Radioisotope 
Thermoelectric Generator (MHW/RTG) Power Source for the LES-8/9 Satellites," AIAA Paper 78-534, A 
Collection of Technical Papers: AIAA 7th Communications Satellite Systems Conference, San Diego, California, April 24-27, 
1978 (New York: AIAA, 1978), p. 728-35. 

36. Franklin W. Floyd, Carl H. Much, Norval P Smith, Joseph R. Vernau, and J.P Woods, "Flight 
Performance of the LES-8/9 Three-Axis Attitude-Control System," AIAA Paper 80-0501, A Collection of Technical Papers: 
AIAA 8th Communications SateUite Systems Conference, Orlando, FL, 20-24 April 1980 (New York: AIAA, 1980), p. 159. 

37. Carl K. Much and Franklin W. Floyd, Jr., 'The Cold-Ammonia Propulsion System for the Lincoln 
Experimental Satellites, LES-8 and -9," Proceedings of the JANNAF Propulsion Meeting, Atlanta, GA, 7-9 December 
1976, Vol. 3 (Laurel, MD: Chemical Propulsion Information Agency and Johns Hopkins University, Applied 
Physics Laboratory, 1976), p. 491. 

38. Frederick W. Sarles, Jr., John H. Helfrich, Paul F McKenzie, and James K. Roberge, "The LES^/9 
Telemetry System: Part I, Flight-System Design and Performance," Record of the International Telemetry Conference 
78, Los Angeles, 14-16 November 1978, p. 645; John H. Helfrich, Atle M. Gjelsvik, Charles M. Rader, Daniel C. 
Rogers, and C.E. Small, 'The LES-8/9 Telemetry System: Part II. Ground-Terminal Design and Performance," 
Ibid., p. 657. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 89 

Laboratory continues to be responsible for the upkeep of LES-8 and -9. The Lincoln 
Experimental Satellite Operations Center operates and maintains these satellites, and it 
will continue to serve them as long as they remain useful.^^ The technologies of onboard 
signal processing and of EHF transmission and reception, successfully demonstrated in 
the LES-8 and -9 Joint Test Program, have been incorporated in subsequent military satel- 
lite communications procurements. The single-channel transponders on the DSCS III 
satellites and the Milstar communications system itself (see below) have flowed direcdy 
from LES-8 and -9. 

Switchboards in the Sky 

Following the launch of LES-8 and -9 in 1976, Lincoln Laboratory addressed the prob- 
lem of providing affordable anti-jamming communications to many small, mobile users. 
LES-8 and -9 and their associated terminals demonstrated that UHF and EHF communi- 
cations systems could be cross-banded in signal-processing satellites and serve the needs 
of a limited number of small, mobile terminals. It was tempting to try to extend the 
approach to meet the needs of a large number of users, because the relative simplicity and 
cheapness of UHF terminals made that part of the spectrum attractive. Unfortunately, the 
military UHF band (225 to 400 megahertz) does not have enough available band width to 
provide the required levels of anti-jamming protection, and the application of adaptive 
nulling, an anti-jamming technique, was not enough to overcome this handicap.^" 
Therefore, under Lincoln Laboratory's new approach, all anti-jamming space communi- 
cations links were assigned to the EHF band. 

The arguments for and against EHF are well known.^' The use of the EHF bands can 
overcome the frequency congestion that affects both civilian and military systems at lower 
frequencies. However, the major advantage to military users is that EHF also supplies the 
band widths necessary to implement robust jam-proof systems based on spread-spectrum 
technologies. By using advanced spread-spectrum and other techniques, including exten- 
sive onboard signal processing, a satellite of modest size can serve large numbers of small 
mobile users simultaneously with highly jam-resistant communications channels. The 
probability that covert transmissions from terminals wishing to remain unnoticed will be 
intercepted is also reduced at EHF. On the negative side, the effects of rain attenuation 
on EHF links require that the minimum elevation angle of the satellite relative to the ter- 
minal must be significantiy higher than for lower frequency systems. 

In consultation with its sponsors, Lincoln Laboratory conceived a "strawman" EHF 
system and built a test-bed satellite with terminal hardware that served as the focus for the 
in-house technology development program. The groundwork for this EHF system concept 

39. William W. Ward, Developing, Testing, and Operating Lincoln Experimental Satellites 8 and 9 (LES-8/9), 
Lincoln Laboratory Technical Note 1979-3 (Lexington, MA: Lincoln Laboratory, 16January 1979), DTIC #AD- 

40. Joseph T. Mayhan, "Adaptive Antenna Design Considerations for Satellite Communication 
Antennas," lEE Proceedings: Microwaves, Optics and Antennas 130, Part H (1983): 98-108; Joseph T. Mayhan and 
Franklin W. Floyd, Factors Affecting the Performance of Adaptive Antenna Systems and Some Evaluation Techniques, 
Lincoln Laboratory Technical Note 1979-14 (Lexington, MA: Lincoln Laboratory, 9 August 1979), DTIC #AD- 

41. William C. Cummings, Pravin C. Jain, and Leon J. Ricardi, "Fundamental Performance 
Characteristics That Influence EHF MILSATCOM Systems," /£££ Transactions on Communications COM-27 
(1979): 1423-35; CJ. Waylan and CM. Yowell, "Considerations for Future Navy Satellite Communications," IEEE 
Electronics and Aerospace Systems Convention (EASCON), Arlington, VA, 1979, EASCON-79 Record, p. 623-27, 
IEEE No. 79CH 1476-1. 

90 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

was laid during the successful development and demonstration of the Ka-band compo- 
nents, subsystems, and systems in LES-8 and -9. The essential features of the strawman 
EHF system were demonstrated on the bench at Lincoln Laboratory in 1980 and 1981 in 
the combined operation of the test-bed satellite with its test-bed terminal. 

Subsequently, the EHF system concept and the associated technologies in develop- 
ment at Lincoln Laboratory served as a point of departure for thinking about EHF systems 
within the Department of Defense military satellite communications community. In 
December 1981, the Pentagon decided to go ahead with a new enterprise, Milstar (the 
Military Strategic Tactical and Relay satellite), which incorporated many technical fea- 
tures of Lincoln Laboratory's strawman EHF system in its own system and in its Common 
Transmission Format. 

Lincoln Laboratory was asked to support Milstar development by building two Air 
Force communications satellite (FLTSAT) EHF Packages (FEPs). The communications 
capabilities of an FEP, when installed on TRW's Air Force UHF/SHF communications 
satellite, are a subset of those of a full Milstar satellite payload.^^ The first FEP was inte- 
grated with FLTSAT-7, which was launched on 4 December 1986; the second was launched 
in 1989 as part of FLTSAT-8. The electronics and antenna assemblies of each FEP were 
built by Lincoln Laboratory under very tight power (305 watts) and mass (111 kilograms) 
constraints, so that they would be compatible with the existing Air Force satellite design. 
The FEP also has facilitated the early operational test and evaluation of the Milstar 
EHF/SHF terminals being developed by the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The complexity 
of an FEP communications system is far greater than that of the LES-8 or -9 satellites, even 
though the FEP has fewer parts. Integrated circuits in the early 1980s, when the FEP 
design choices were made, were more sophisticated than when LES-8 and -9 were 
designed in the early 1970s. 

The major innovation in the FEP was a computer-based resource controller that estab- 
lishes data channels operating at different data rates, via different antenna beams and 
other means, to support the communications needs of individual users. The onboard 
access controller receives requests for user service from each user terminal's computer. 
The controller in turn sets up the requested services and informs the user terminals' com- 
puters of its actions via a downlink order wire. Once a channel has been set up, the FEP 
converts uplink message formats to downlink message formats and retransmits user data 
via either or both of the FEP's two antenna beams. Although the computer-to-computer 
dialogs between the FEP and the user terminals are complex, the required interactions 
between human and machine are user friendly and can be performed easily by terminal 

The experience gained in operating the Lincoln Experimental Satellite Operations 
Center for the control of LES-8 and -9 in orbit was directly applicable to the task of con- 
trolling an FEP in orbit. The greater sophistication of the FEP (compared to the LES-8 or 
-9) has resulted in a much lower workload in the FEP Operations Center than in the 
Lincoln Experimental Satellite Operations Center, where any change in the configuration 
of the satellite's communications system requires human intervention. The resource con- 
troller in the orbiting FEP carries out most of its computer-to-computer transactions with 
users and would-be users without supervisory intervention. Two FEP Operations Centers 

42. David R. McElroy, "The FEP Communications System," AIAA Paper 88-0824, A Collection of Technical 
Papers: AIAA 12th International Communications Satellite Systems Conference, Arlington, VA, 13-17 March 1988 (New 
York: AIAA, 1988), p. 395. 

43. Marilyn D. Semprucci, 'The First Switchboard in the Sky: An Autonomous Satellite-Based 
Access/ Resource Controller," Lincoln Laboratory Journal 1 (1988): 5-18. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 91 

have been built. One is installed permanently at Lincoln Laboratory; the other, trans- 
portable but by no means mobile, has been installed at a Navy facility in Maine. (The Navy 
is the operational manager of the FEP Communications System.) 

During the FEP program, Lincoln Laboratory concentrated on the challenging tech- 
nologies required for the FEP, taking advantage of the satellite-bus technologies already 
developed and proven in space by TRW's series of Air Force satellites. It has been gratify- 
ing that the FEP aboard FLTSAT-7 arrived safely in orbit and has worked well since launch. 
While the success of the FEP program speaks well for Lincoln Laboratory's approach to 
implementation and quality assurance in building reliable spacecraft, some of the success 
of Lincoln Laboratory's program in space communications has to be attributed to plain 
luck. Consider the case of the FEP carried by FLTSAT-7. 

Although FLTSAT-6 carried no FEP, FLTSAT-7 and -8 each carried one. The sponsor 
decided to juggle the launch schedule and interchange FLTSAT-7 and -6 to get an EHF 
package into orbit as early as possible. As a result, FLTSAT-7 was launched on 4 December 
1986, and FLTSAT-6 followed on 26 March 1987 during a storm. Lightning struck the 
Atlas/Centaur booster. After the rocket engine noise ceased, and a series of muffled 
explosions occurred aloft, one of the authors of this chapter, who was at Cape Canaveral 
at the time, said to himself: 'There but for the grace of God and the United States Navy 
went the first FEP." 

Advanced EHF/SHF Terminals 

In another Milstar-related activity, Lincoln Laboratory designed and built the Single- 
Channel Objective Tactical Terminal (SCOTT), which was the advanced model of the 
Army's Milstar EHF/SHF terminal. In 1983, Army personnel successfully tested this ter- 
minal, mounted in a tracked military vehicle, against a satellite simulator in the field. The 
Army's production version of SCOTT has many of the features that were first demon- 
strated in Lincoln Laboratory's development model. 

As an outgrowth of the SCOTT work, Lincoln Laboratory conducted a feasibility study 
in 1983 that resulted in a conceptual design for a human-portable, Milstar-compatible 
EHF/SHF terminal. The development of the Single-Channel Advanced Milstar Portable 
(SCAMP) terminal was completed shortly after the launch of the first FEP, and it has oper- 
ated successfully with the FEP. There are numerous diverse needs for limited-capability 
terminals of this class, which offer most of the advantages of Milstar communications with- 
out the full range of options. 

Optical Space Communications 

The success of optical communications for some terrestrial applications is undeni- 
able. Laser and fiber optic technologies have brought about cables that seriously compete 
with communications satellites. However, optical space communications has been the 
"wave of the future" for many years. The advent of the laser, with its promise of coherent 
radiation across the transmitting apertures and correspondingly fine, high-gain antenna 
beams, has led to very encouraging link-performance calculations. To the best of the 
authors' knowledge, however, no one has yet demonstrated a nontrivial optical intersatel- 
lite link in space. 

Lincoln Laboratory once considered putting optical intersatellite links on LES-8 and 
-9, in addition to the millimeter-wave links. The optical feature was dropped from the 
satellite's configuration in late 1971 when it became clear that the current state of the art 


Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Figure 1 7 

The Single-Channel Advanced Milstar Portable terminal (SCAMP), shown above with Lincoln Laboratory engineer Daxjid M. 
Snider, illustrates the degree of reduction achieved in the size of satellite communications equipment over the decades. Compare 
SCAMP, for example, with the Army's Mark rV(X) mobile unit shown in Chapter 7, Figure 14. (Courtesy of Lincoln 
Laboratory, photo no. 5978-87-5C) 

in solid-state laser-diode technology was inadequate for a flight experiment and that the 
project's resources could not support an optical link. Progress in available components, 
coupled with new insights in system design, has since made it attractive to resume work in 
this area, often called "LASERCOM." 

Lincoln Laboratory is now developing a technology base for high-data-rate intersatel- 
lite links that could be realized with small-aperture, lightweight, low-power optoelectron- 
ic packages. The approach taken uses solid-state laser diodes and silicon-diode detectors 
operating in a heterodyne mode.^^ Modulated continuous-wave transmission and 
heterodyne detection will be combined in the system design to provide communications 
significantly superior to the more commonly used systems based on pulsed transmission 
and direct energy detection (commonly known as the photon-bucket approach). 

Although Lincoln Laboratory began to prepare in 1985 for a demonstration of het- 
erodyne LASERCOM technology in orbit, program constraints have ruled it out for the 
present. Lincoln Laboratory is now building an engineering model of a complete hetero- 
dyne LASERCOM system, which will address all critical technological areas and issues. 
When the world is ready for LASERCOM, the technology will be available. 

44. Vincent W.S. Chan, "Space Coherent Optical Communication Systems: An Introduction, "/(fmma/ of 
Lightwave Technology LT-5 (1987): 633-37; Vincent W.S. Chan, "Intersatellite Optical Heterodyne 
Communications Systems," LmcoZn La6waioryyoMr7?a/ 1 (1988): 169-86. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 93 

Future Developments in Space Communications 

The next goal for reliable military satellite communications systems is the extension 
to high-data-rate applications of the robust, jam-resistant technologies for low-data-rate 
applications that FEP has demonstrated. Considering the large band widths that will be 
required, these new systems will most likely be implemented at EHF, at least for the 
uplinks and downlinks. The effects of bad weather, even clouds, on optical links between 
satellites and ground terminals seem certain to rule out LASERCOM for applications in 
which consistent link availability is important. However, optical links between satellites 
and airborne platforms flying above the weather may meet specific military needs. The 
technology of radio intersatellite links has been amply demonstrated in orbit by LES-8 and 
-9 and by NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.*' It is only a matter of time — 
and of continued support — until LASERCOM intersatellite links are similarly demonstrated. 

Intersatellite link technologies have not yet found civilian application. The Intelsat 6 
series of communications satellites, the first of which was launched in late 1991, was 
designed well after the LES-8 and -9 intersatellite links had been demonstrated in orbit. 
However, it was not found economically justifiable to include intersatellite links in the 
Intelsat 6 satellites, nor have such links appeared in successive generations of these birds. 
Nevertheless, the time for civilian intersatellite links will come. 


In the more than 30 years since the launch of Sputnik, the field of space communi- 
cations has reached a high level of maturity. The mission failures that occasionally 
besmirch the record of each spacefaring nation cannot obscure the numerous remark- 
able — and useful — achievements that have taken place. Notable among them are the con- 
tributions of space communications, both economically and in terms of increased inter- 
national stability. The field of space communications allows national leaders to stay in 
touch with one another, and it gives them more control over their military resources, thus 
reducing the possibility of accidental war. The field has changed the ways in which soci- 
eties function and interact, and it promises to do far more. To quote the science fiction 
writer Arthur C. Clarke (who first suggested the geostationary communications satellite) : 
"What we are building now is the nervous system of mankind, which will link together the 
whole human race, for better or worse, in a unity which no earlier age could have imag- 

45. TDRSS/Advanced WESTAR" in Compendium of Communication and Broadcast Satellites, pp. 139-47; 
Martin, "West Ford," pp. 152-56. 

46. Arthur C. Clarke, The Social Consequences of Communications Satellites," paper presented at the 
12th International Astronautical Congress, Washington, DC, 1961, and published in Arthur C. Clarke, Voices from 
the Sky: Previews of the Coming Space Age (New York: Harper & Row, 1965) , p. 139. 

Chapter 9 

Billion Dollar Technology: A Short 

Historical Overview of the Origins of 

Communications Satellite 

Technology, 1945-1965 

by David J. Whalen 

In the four decades since the launch of Sputnik, communications satellites remain the 
only truly commercial space technology. Less than eight years after Sputnik, a revenue- 
producing satellite. Early Bird, emerged. Thus far in the 1990s, the average number of 
communications satellites launched annually has been twenty, at an average cost of more 
than $50 million for the satellite and another $50 million (or more) for the launch vehi- 
cle. The average spent annually on communications satellites is in excess of $2 billion. 

In the face of this overwhelming commercial success, most analysts of the early devel- 
opment of communications satellites have concentrated on politics and policy studies, 
almost excluding the technological and economic origins of this industry. These analysts 
tend to discuss the passage of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962 and the ups and 
downs of the NASA communications satellite program, with little reference to technology 
or economics. As a consequence of this emphasis on political studies, conventional wis- 
dom asserts that the government developed communications satellite technology because 
industry was unwilling or unable to face the high costs and high risks associated with com- 
munications satellite research and development. This conventional wisdom assumes that 
industry would not develop new communications satellite technology because it was too 
risky, there was a lack of funds, and industry would not be able to appropriate the benefits.' 

While some communications satellite technology flows from one manufacturer to 
another, much is protected by patents, and even more is protected by the difficulty of 
learning new technology. Technology transfer, even when facilitated by cooperation, is 
often difficult. Many early geosynchronous satellites used techniques pioneered by 
Hughes on Syncom in 1963. The Hughes-Williams patent was the subject of litigation for 
years, but it proved to be quite valuable to Hughes. Eventually, most other manufacturers 
and the U.S. government had to pay royalties to Hughes. Perhaps more important, 
Hughes has dominated the manufacture of communications satellites since the first 
Syncom in 1963. The risk of competitors appropriating technology is greatly overstated. 

Capital has rarely been the most important issue when investors looked at communi- 
cations satellites; access to the market has been far more important. Telecommunications 
has been a multibillion-dollar business for most of this century. AT&T, in particular, cer- 
tainly had the financial resources to invest in communications satellites. 

1. See, for example, Marcia S. Smith, "Civilian Space Applications: The Privatization Battleground," in 
Radford Byerly.Jr., ed., Space Policy Reconsidered (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1989), pp. 105-16; Linda R. Cohen and 
Roger G. Noll, The Applications Technology Satellite Program," in Linda R. Cohen and Roger G. Noll, eds., The 
Technology Pork Barrel (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1991), pp. 149-77. 


96 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

In 1955, John R. Pierce of AT&T compared the estimated cost of satellite communi- 
cations with the cost of the first transadantic telephone cable (TAT-1) then being laid 
between the United States and Europe. The cable would provide approximately thirty-six 
voice circuits at a cost of around $35 million. Pierce then asked his readers: "Would a 
channel 30 times as wide [as TAT-1] , which would accommodate 1080 [30x36] phone con- 
versarions or one television signal, be worth 30x35 million dollars: that is, a billion dol- 
lars?"^ AT&T was in a position to fund a billion-dollar project. In 1959, with net sales of over 
$7 billion, AT&T was in a better position to fund communications satellite research and 
development than NASA, whose entire budget was only a few hundred million dollars. 

In late 1964, after the successful launch of Syncom 3 and prior to the launch of Early 
Bird, NASA Administrator James E. Webb asked his staff: "How did we get so much com- 
munications satellite technology for so little money?"' His question has never been 
adequately answered, because most analysts have concentrated on political, rather than 
technological, issues. This chapter addresses the history of the development of that tech- 
nology and, in the process, attempts to answer Webb's question. 

Postwar Technology and Resources 

The roots of nearly all of the technologies associated with communications satellites 
extend back to World War II. Although billions were spent on the Manhattan Project, 
radar research and development, and the development of the B-29, the program that most 
stimulated a longing to exploit space was the relatively inexpensive German V2 rocket. 
The V2 made it clear that rockets were practical and, with a little more development, 
could place a satellite in orbit. 

Although Hermann Oberth in 1923 and George O. Smith in 1942 had speculated 
about geosynchronous or, in Smith's case, Earth-Venus relay communications satellites, 
the acknowledged "father" — or, in his own words, "godfather" — of communications satel- 
lites was Arthur C. Clarke, a Royal Air Force officer at the time who hoped to revitalize the 
British Interplanetary Society after the war. Clarke was the first, in his October 1945 
Wireless World article, to develop rather fully the concept of a geosynchronous satellite. 
Three of these satellites, each fixed over a specific longitude on the equator, would pro- 
vide complete global coverage. Clarke envisioned their use for television programming, 
and he assumed that the satellite would be occupied by humans to change the vacuum 
tubes on a regular basis. '' 

The Wireless World article did not receive wide publicity. Clarke's real contribution to 
satellite communications was to continue pressing for a geosynchronous system in other 
publications. His book The Exploration of Space" included a system of three geosynchronous 
satellites, and many readers viewed it as a blueprint for the entire space program.** At the 
same time as the publication of Clarke's Wireless World article, moreover, U.S. Navy 
researchers began developing launch vehicles and satellites,' and, failing to find higher 

2. John R. Pierce, "Orbital Radio Relays,"/^' Propulsion 25 (April 1955): 153-57. 

3. Paraphrase of Webb's comments at the 22 September 1964 Program Review, referred to in W.A. 
Radius to ADA/Shapley, 10 December 1965, Thompson papers, NASA History Office, Washington, DC. 

4. Arthur C. Clarke, "Extra-Terrestrial Relays: Can Rocket Stations Give World-Wide Radio Coverage?," 
Wirekss Warldbl (October 1945): 305-08. 

5. Arthur C. Clarke, The Exploration of Spaa (New York: Harper & Row, 1952). 

6. For example, former NASA Associate Administrator Homer E. Newell credited Clarke as the cham- 
pion of communications satellite applications. Homer E. Newell, Beyond the Atmosphere: Early Years of Space Science 
(Washington, DC: NASASP-4211, 1980), p. 106. 

7. Harvey Hall, Early History and Background on Earth Satellites, report no. 405:HH:dr (Washington, DC: 
Office of Naval Research, 29 November 1957). 

Beyond the Ionosphere 97 

level support, they approached the Army Air Forces with a proposal for a joint program. 
Ultimately, the Army Air Forces was as unwilling as the Navy to fund the project. 

Despite this failure, one positive outcome was an independent study of the feasibility 
of Earth satellites by Project RAND (then a part of the Douglas Aircraft Corporation and 
not yet an independent, nonprofit reseaich and development organization) on behalf of 
the Army Air Forces.** Completed on 12 May 1946, the RAND report observed, among 
other points, that a satellite launch would have a dramatic effect on world opinion and 
that the satellite might have notable use as a communications relay." In spite of a curtail- 
ment of military research and development expenditures under the Truman administra- 
tion, subsequent RAND studies of geosynchronous communications satellites and the 
political and psychological aspects of launch vehicles appeared in 1949 and 1950, respec- 
tively.'" These RAND studies emphasized that whichever nation first launched a satellite 
would score a tremendous psychological victory and that the satellite could be used for 
reconnaissance. In the words of historian Walter A. McDougall, the 1950 RAND report 
"more than any other, deserves to be considered the birth certificate of American Space 
Policy."" Over the following years, RAND, the Air Force, North American Aviation, and 
other defense companies worked on reconnaissance, rather than on other satellite appli- 
cations. Instead, communications satellites were to be born from civilian commercial 
telecommunications developments. 

Following World War II, telephone use underwent a dramatic increase. 
Communications in general grew at more than three times the gross national product 
(GNP) rate of growth. A large component of that growth was in both domestic and inter- 
national long-distance traffic. However, few improvements had been made since the lay- 
ing of the last transatlantic telegraph cable in 1928. Radiotelegraphy and radiotelephony, 
while rapidly overtaking underwater cable telegraphy, suffered from noise that was inher- 
ent in the technology. The first transadantic telephone cable (TAT-l) was not laid until 
1956. TAT-l was mainly an AT&T venture in collaboration with such foreign partners as 
the British Post Office and Canada's Overseas Telecommunications Corporation. 
Indicative of the cable's success was the immediate inclusion of radio companies (RCA, 
ITT, and Western Union) in the TAT-l arrangements. They recognized the superiority of 
the new technology and wanted to take part in its exploitation. Next came TAT-2 in 1959, 
owned by AT&T, the French Postal and Telecommunications Administration (Direction 
des Telecommunications Sous-Marines), and the Deutsche Bundespost, and TAT-3, 
owned by AT&T and the British Post Office, in 1963.'^ Behind the laying of these transat- 
lantic cables was a dramatic growth in international telephone traffic throughout the post- 
war period, generally at the rate of 20 percent per year (Figure 18). 

8. Douglas Aircraft Corporation formed Project RAND in late 1945 to advise the Army Air Forces. It 
became an independent organization in 1948. 

9. Project RAND, Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship, Report No. SM-11827 
(Santa Monica, CA: Project RAND, May 1946). 

10. Project RAND, Satellite to Surface Communication — Equatorial Orbit, RAND RM-603 (Santa Monica, CA: 
Project RAND, July 1949); Paul Kecskemeti, The Satellite Rocket Vehicle: Political and Psychological Problems,. RAND 
RM-567, (Santa Monica, CA: Project RAND, 4 October 1950). 

11. Walter A. McDougall, . . . The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (New York: Basic 
Books, 1985), p. 108. 

12. U.S. Department of Commerce, 1984 World's Submarine Telephone Cable Systems (Washington, DC: U.S. 
Government Printing Office, 1984), pp. 90-91, 101, 127. TAT-4 was laid in 1965 amid some discussion of its cost- 
effectiveness relative to satellites. TAT-5, laid in 1970, provided a dramatic increase in capability to 720 voice cir- 
cuits for a relatively modest $79 million. 


Creating Systems: United States and Canada 








Figure 18 

International telephone calls (1940-1970). (Source: Historical Statistics of the United States) 

Although RCA developed much of the radio and television technology, AT&T, specif- 
ically its Bell Telephone Laboratories, made many breakthroughs in basic electronic 
devices, the most famous of which was the transistor. AT&T also was deeply involved in 
developing the maser and the traveling-wave tube. The maser is a low-noise amplifier, an 
important component of ground stations receiving weak satellite signals; the traveling- 
wave tube is a high-gain linear amplifier used in satellite transmitters. While masers origi- 
nated at Columbia University, Bell Telephone Laboratories worked hard at adapting the 
technology to underwater telephone cables. Bell also developed the traveling-wave tube 
for use in microwave relay stations. Furthermore, AT&T performed extensive research 
and development work for the U.S. government, including nuclear weapons research 
(Sandia), missile studies (Safeguard), and Apollo program support (BellComm). While 
other companies also had research and development laboratories, AT&T stood at the top 
in terms of the caliber of the research and development performed, as well as the com- 
pany's willingness to invest vast sums. 

Similar to AT&T, most of the firms that later became involved in satellite communi- 
cations had been around for some time. General Electric was the oldest, having been 
formed by the merger of Thompson-Houston and Edison General Electric in 1892. AT&T 
was formed in 1895. Both ITT, created to manage a variety of telephone and telegraph 
companies initially in Latin America, and RCA, organized to pool radio patents, were 
formed in 1920. GTE was a telephone competitor of AT&T. Hughes, which started in the 
1930s as a "hobby-shop" for Howard Hughes, grew dramatically in the postwar period. All 
of these companies were major electronics manufacturers, and all, except Hughes and 
General Electric, had significant stakes as communications system operators. 

These firms generally were quite large. In 1959, all of these companies combined 
spent more than NASA. AT&T and General Electric alone accounted for more than 2 per- 
cent of the GNP. The following are the 1959 U.S. GNP, federal oudays, the budgets of 
NASA and the Department of Defense (DoD), and the net sales of the eight largest 
American companies (industry figures are net sales): 

Beyond the Ionosphere 99 

U.S. GNP $483.7 billion 

Federal outlays $92.1 billion 

DoD $44.6 billion 

NASA $0.3 billion 

AT&T $7.4 billion 

General Electric $4.3 billion 

RCA $1.4 billion 

Lockheed $1.3 billion 

ITT $0.7 billion 

Bendix $0.7 billion 

GTE $0.4 billion 

Western Union International $0.3 billion 
(Source: Historical Statistics of the United States) 

AT&T dominated the telecommunications industry; consequently, any improvement 
in telecommunications technology ultimately was to the advantage of AT&T. By 1957, when 
Sputnik began orbiting the Earth, all the technologies necessary for satellite communica- 
tions had been invented. All that remained was to demonstrate these technologies and to 
compare the different innovations that had been discussed in the technical literature. 

Sputnik: The Catalyst 

The media panic resulting from the "surprise" launch of Sputnik 1 on 4 October 1957 
did not evidence itself immediately in public policy, but it soon began to have an effect. A 
flurry of military rocket development ensued. The following month, both the Thor and 
Jupiter rockets were ordered into production, and by the end of the year, more than a 
half-dozen Thors had been fired. Thor would become the workhorse of the space pro- 
gram. Then, on 31 January 1958, the United States launched its first satellite. Explorer 1, 
followed on 17 March by Vanguard 1. All together, the United States had seven successful 
launches in 1958; the Soviet Union had only one." American missile technology now was 
available to launch communications experiments. 

Meanwhile, John R. Pierce and Rudolf Kompfner of AT&T, independent inventors of 
the traveling-wave tube, saw an opportunity for AT&T to launch an experimental com- 
munications satellite. Sometime in early 1958, Pierce and Kompfner saw a picture of the 
shiny 100-foot (thirty-one-meter) sphere that William J. O'SuUivan of the National 
Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Langley Research Center had proposed for 
launch to undertake atmospheric research. It reminded Pierce of the 100-foot (thirty-one- 
meter) communications reflector he had envisioned orbiting around Earth in 1954. That 
summer, while Pierce and Kompfner were attending an Air Force-sponsored meeting on 
communications at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Pierce met William H. Pickering, director 
of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) , and the three engineers discussed the possibility 
of using a sphere such as O'Sullivan's for communications experiments. Pickering volun- 
teered the support of JPL. To support their plan, Kompfner and Pierce presented a paper 
at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., on 6-7 October 1958.'^ 

13. Dated events, unless specifically footnoted, are from House Committee on Space and Astronautics, 
A Chronology of Missile and AstronauHc Events [1915-1960], 87th Cong., 1st sess., 1961, HR-67, and subsequent 
annual NASA publications. 

14. John R. Pierce, Transoceanic Communication by Means of Satellites," Proceedings of the IRE 47 
(March 1959): 372-80; John R. Pierce, The Beginnings of Satellite Communications (San Francisco: San Francisco 
Press, 1968), pp. 9-12. 

100 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

The Pentagon had its own space program. In fact, before the advent of NASA, DoD 
had been the primary space agency and remained dominant for some time thereafter. 
DoD's initial responsibility for space activities was with the Advanced Research Projects 
Agency (ARPA). In the period between the announcement of the intention to form NASA 
in early 1958 and the actual formation of the space agency in late 1959, ARPA was respon- 
sible for managing all U.S. space programs and later for apportioning responsibility for 
those programs among the three armed services and the newly formed NASA. 

In November 1958, representatives of NASA, ARPA, and the Bureau of the Budget 
met with the president's science advisor to discuss satellite communications. They agreed 
that ARPA would concentrate on active satellites, while NASA would develop passive satel- 
lites.'^ NASA already was committed to launching balloons to study atmospheric density, 
and it was the only agency interested in Pierce's plan to bounce signals off balloons in 

At the same time, Hughes was inching into the field of communications satellites. In 
1959, when the Air Force canceled the F-108 long-range interceptor in response to the 
cancellation of the Soviet advanced intercontinental bomber program, the Hughes 
Aircraft Company lost its F-108 contracts and laid off 20 percent of its employees. Frank 
Carver, manager of the F-108 fire-control system design group, saw the layoff coming and 
asked Harold A. Rosen, an electrical engineering Ph.D. from California Institute of 
Technology (Caltech),"' to explore potential markets for the skills of the Advanced 
Development Laboratory personnel. Later in 1959, Donald D. Williams, a Harvard physics 
major, joined Rosen, and over the following months, they worked on the design of a light- 
weight geosynchronous communications satellite." 

Congressional hearings held 3 and 4 March 1959 on "satellites for world communica- 
tion""* illustrated the disparate lines along which military, civilian, and commercial satel- 
lite communications were developing. Of the six organizations making presentations, four 
of them, NASA, ARPA, AT&T, and ITT, were actively engaged in communications satellite 
research. AT&T and ITT even expected to make a profit in this endeavor. John Pierce, in 
making the AT&T presentation, mentioned that about two dozen professionals and vari- 
ous technicians were working on satellite communications at AT&T, a half-dozen of whom 
were full dme. Although Pierce did not mention the development of the transistor by Bell 
Telephone Laboratories or his own mvention of the traveling-wave tube (both necessary 
to satellite communications) , the message was obvious: AT&T could do the job and 
already had started."* 

Following Pierce was R.P. Haviland of General Electric. Haviland, based on his expe- 
rience with the early Navy space effort (1945-1947) was General Electric's in-house "satel- 
Ute expert." He described two possible communications satellites. One, for the future, was 
a huge manned television broadcast space station with living quarters and enormous 
antennas a la Clarke and costing under $2 billion. The second was a less ambitious pro- 
ject intended for the present. Sixteen satellites, each with four transmitters and capable of 

15. T. Keith Glennan to James H. Douglas, 18 August 1960, NASA History Office. 

16. William Pickering, John Pierce, and Harold Rosen all had doctorates in electrical engineering from 

17. Harold A. Rosen, "Harold Rosen on Satellite Technology Then and Now," Via Satellites (July 1993): 
40-43; GM-Hughes Electronics, "History and Accomplishments of the Hughes Aircraft Company," undated, p. 
12, Hughes Aircraft Company Archives, El Segundo, CA; Edgar W. Morse, "Preliminary History of Project 
SYNCOM," 1 September 1964, pp. 32-34, History Notes HHN-14, NASA History Office. 

18. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Satellites far World Communication, 86th Cong., 1st 
sess., 1959, (86) H1733-3, passim. 

19. Ibid., pp. 35-46. 

Bevond the Ionosphere 101 

200 simultaneous teletype messages, would provide global coverage. The cost of the whole 
system was between $100 and $150 million to establish and perhaps $50 million annually 
to operate. General Electric thus seemed prepared to enter the field of communications 
satellites, too.'*" 

The next presenter was Henri G. Busignies, President of ITT Laboratories. He dis- 
cussed ongoing research in satellite communications at ITT, which recently had been con- 
centrating on twenty-four-hour satellite systems. ITT could handle the necessary satellite 
and ground station communications hardware, and it had joined with Curtis-Wright and 
Aerojet for assistance with the satellite vehicle itself. As with AT&T and General Electric, 
ITT was interested in communications satellites, but it seemed to be looking for a partner, 
especially one with a knowledge of satellites.'^' 

The main message of the congressional hearings was that satellite communications 
were being taken seriously. ARPA, at least in the opinion of the AT&T engineers, was too 
ambitious — and perhaps insufficiendy knowledgeable. AT&T, JPL, and NASA Langley 
were proceeding with a simple passive experiment (Project Echo), which, if successful, 
would lead to more complex satellites. AT&T clearly saw itself as the leader in passive satel- 
lite programs. The most important ground facilities would be those of Bell Telephone 
Laboratories in New Jersey and JPL in California. NASA would build and launch the bal- 
loon. AT&T treated JPL as a knowledgeable junior partner, but it considered the rest of 
NASA almost incompetent. Their worst comments were reserved for ARPA engineers and 
managers, though, whom they saw as unrealistically grandiose in their approach.'^- 

Hughes and AT&T Push Forward 

Meanwhile, industry pushed forward their communications satellite plans. Rosen and 
Williams, joined by Tom Hudspeth, were busy at Hughes Aircraft Company. By the sum- 
mer of 1959, they had designed, at least conceptually, a lightweight communications satel- 
lite, and they were ready to make presentations to upper management.^^ Rosen's satellite 
proposal then underwent evaluation in an in-house review. The study recommended that 
Hughes seriously consider a commercial venture in satellite communications. Even 
though certain aspects of the proposal were overly optimistic, communications satellites 
could generate prestige for the company. The major obstacle would be commercial: find- 
ing enough traffic to make the system profitable. The review recommended, therefore, a 
thorough study of the business aspects of satellite communications and talks with General 
Telephone, the largest Bell competitor. ^^ 

The Hughes Aircraft Company Task Force on Commercial Satellite Communication*^ 
met for the first time a few weeks later on 12 October 1959. The group determined that 
the most critical aspect of satellite communications was not the technology, but the com- 
mercial prospects. The AT&T monopoly would be difficult, but not necessarily impossible, 
to circumvent. A satellite's value need not be determined necessarily by its ability to carry 

20. Ibid., pp. 47-56. 

21. Ibid., pp. 56-62. 

22. John R. Pierce, "BTL Tracking Proposal," April 2, 1959; W.C.Jakes, "Visit to Washington on March 
31, 1959," 7 April 1959; J.R. Pierce to J.A. Morton, 14 April 1959, AT&T Archives, Warren, NJ. 

23. A.S. Jerrems to F.R. Carver, 17 September 1959, Hughes Aircraft Company Archives, El Segimdo, CA. 

24. S.G. Lutz to A.V. Haeff, "Evaluation of H.A. Rosen's Commercial Satellite Communication 
Proposal," 1 October 1959, Hughes Aircraft Company Archives. 

25. The task force's working members were E.D. Felkel, S.G. Lutz, D.E. Miller, H.A. Rosen, and J.H. 

102 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

telephone traffic; that value could come from prestige, a claim on a section of the sta- 
tionary orbit, a wide bandwidth service (such as television), or military communications. 
Many questions were left to be answered, however. What about competition from AT&T 
and RCA? Should government support be sought?-'' 

The recommendations of the Hughes task force strongly endorsed the Rosen satellite 
proposal. Hughes had a cost advantage that derived, according to the task force, from the 
"Hughes brand of system engineering." NASA, RCA, Space Electronics, and the Army had 
proposed solving the problems of geosynchronous satellites with large complex space- 
craft, while Hughes alone (successfully) had attempted to design a cheap lightweight 
spacecraft. The task force recommended starting immediately to capture the prestige of 
having the first satellite in orbit, funding the development of the traveling-wave tube 
separately as a commercial product, and exploring cooperation with General Telephone.^' 

Following a briefing a week later on 26 October 1959 by Dr. A.V. Haeff of the task 
force, L.A. "Pat" Hyland, Hughes General Manager, suggested determining whether new 
technologies developed for satellite communications could be patented and coordinating 
efforts with NASA as other firms had done on Atomic Energy Commission projects. On 
those projects, the government financed the development of a type or class of reactor but 
allowed industry to develop it commercially and to retain commercial rights over the 
patents that it generated. Hyland also urged that dialogue with potential partners not be 
engaged until after both these issues were resolved. Finally, he decided, the development 
of the traveling-wave tube should proceed only if its value were comparable to other 
research projects.^** 

On 5 November 1959, Donald Williams of Hughes traveled to NASA headquarters for 
a meeting with Homer J. Stewart, who headed a small planning group under NASA 
Administrator T. Keith Glennan. Although most Hughes senior executives were not too 
upset at the thought of NASA taking over their patent rights, Williams, the inventor of the 
orbit and altitude control system, prefaced his discussions with a statement that Hughes 
did not want to lose their proprietary rights by talking to NASA. Stewart assured him that 
this would not happen. Williams emphasized the Hughes interest in proceeding with their 
satellite program as a commercial venture. Stewart saw the Hughes-funded commercial 
communications satellite program as being in line with the traditional U.S. policy of let- 
ting the private sector run telecommunications, but, Stewart warned with some pre- 
science, a faction in Congress would oppose privately owned commercial communications 

As with Hughes, AT&T was proceeding with its own communications satellite pro- 
gram. During most of 1959, AT&T concentrated on building antennas, transmitters, and 
receivers for the Echo program. By November, successful Moon-bounce experiments had 
been conducted between AT&T's Bell Telephone Laboratories faciUties at Crawford Hill, 
New Jersey, and JPL's Goldstone facilities.*" AT&T and several of the other companies 

26. S.G. Lutz to A.V. Haeff, "Economic Aspects of Satellite Communication," 13 October 1959, Hughes 
Aircraft Company Archives. 

27. S.G. Lutz to A.V. Haeff, "Commercial Satellite Communication Project: Preliminary Report of Study 
Task Force," 22 October 1959, Hughes Aircraft Company Archives. 

28. L.A. Hyland to A.V. Haeff and C.G. Murphy, "Communications Satellite," 26 October 1959, Hughes 
Aircraft Company Archives. 

29. D.D. Williams to D.F. Doody, "Discussions with Dr. Homer J. Stewart, NASA," 23 November 1959, 
Hughes Aircraft Company Archives. 

30. AT&T/BTL, "PROJECT ECHO, Monthly Report No. 3, Contract NASW-110, December 1959," 
AT&T Archives. 

Beyond the Ionosphere lOS 

interested in satellite communications (notably ITT, but also Hughes) viewed the ground 
facilities as the most important component of a communications satellite system. In gen- 
eral, from this early period to the present, more money has been spent on ground stations 
than on the communications satellites themselves. The prevalence of the Bell Telephone 
Laboratories technology in its own systems suggested to AT&T's researchers that the com- 
pany had a technological advantage over other companies." 

In addition to work on passive satellites, such as Echo, AT&T was not neglecting active 
satellite design. By August 1959, Leroy C. Tillotson, a senior engineer at Bell Telephone 
Laboratories, had described a satellite design quite similar to Telstar in a memorandum, 
and another Bell memorandum described a satellite traveling-wave tube. By the end of 
1959, studies of spacecraft power systems (such as solar cells, Ni-Cd batteries, and DC-DC 
converters), structures, space environment, thermal control, and attitude control also had 
been completed. Perhaps more important was a growing commitment to the development 
of active satellites. In the words of Pierce: "by the end of 1959 our thoughts were directed 
toward a simple, low-altitude active satellite as the next step."'^ 

NASA Joins the Game 

By the end of 1959, the various commercial communications satellite programs were 
moving along. Hughes had designed the basic Syncom satellite, and it was considering 
developing that satellite in partnership with NASA.'' AT&T and NASA were finishing 
preparations for Echo, and the firm was proceeding with an active satellite design. NASA, 
the fledgling space agency, still had no communications satellite policy despite its partici- 
pation in the Echo program. 

Aside from Echo, the first reference in the diaries of NASA Administrator T Keith 
Glennan to communications satellites is an entry dated 27 July 1960, in which he refers to 
a meeting with George B. Kistiakowsky, the president's science advisor, to talk about com- 
munications satellites. The two were concerned that public policy had not been developed 
in this area, yet the "pressures generated by AT&T and by the military as well as by other 
industrial suppliers are building up quite a fire."** 

The next day, Glennan assigned Robert G. Nunn, Jr., NASA's Assistant General 
Counsel, the task of preparing an outline of a position paper to be delivered at a cabinet 
meeting in which NASA would request responsibility for preparing administration policy 
on communications satellites. A week later, Nunn and John A.Johnson, NASA's General 
Counsel, met with Glennan to discuss what was now called "the communications satellite 
problem." The following days' diary entries were filled with references to communications 
satellites, including an 1 1 August meeting with an AT&T delegation that had been explor- 
ing the possibility of a joint communications satellite program with partners in Britain, 
France, and West Germany. In the space of a few days, NASA, at least as evidenced by 

31. Pierce, The Beginnings of Satellite Communications, pp. 15-22; A.C. Dickieson, TELSTAR: The 
Management Story," unpublished monograph, Bell Telephone Laboratories, July 1970, pp. 29-32, AT&T 

32. Pierce, The Beginnings of Satellite Communications, pp. 22-23; Dickieson, 'TELSTAR," pp. 32-34. 

33. Robert K. Roney to A.E. Puckett, "Communications Satellite Review Analysis," 27 January 1960; R.L. 
Corbo to T.W. Oswald, "Revision of the Communication Satellite Structure and General Arrangement," 29 
January 1960; Rosen and Williams, "Commercial Communications Satellite," October 1959, Appendix B, 
Hughes Aircraft Company Archives. 

34. T. Keith Glennan, The Birth of NASA: The Diary ofT. Keith Glennan (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4105, 
1993), p. 189. 

104 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Glennan's diary entries, had gone from a position of almost no interest in communica- 
tions satellites to one of very high interest — even "owning the problem."''* 

NASA had concentrated on passive satellites, as specified in the 1959 agreement with 
DoD, and had assumed that the Pentagon would be responsible for active satellites. That 
policy was about to change. After consulting with Budget Director Maurice H. Stans and 
Deputy Secretary of Defense James H. Douglas, Jr., Glennan developed a new agreement 
with DoD that allowed NASA to proceed with an active communications satellite program. 
Discussions with General Counsel John Johnson made it clear to Glennan that many other 
policy problems had to be solved as well. 

AT&T remained the leading firm with a communications satellite program, although 
on 19 August 1959, George Metcalf of General Electric, contractor for the military com- 
munications satellite Advent, communicated to Glennan his firm's interest in developing 
a commercial launch and data-acquisition service, including a Pacific Ocean launch site.'* 
AT&T, in contrast, was willing to put its own money into satellite communications. On 15 
September 1959, George Best and William Baker of AT&T met with Glennan to provide 
more background on AT&T's interest in communications satellites. They informed him 
that AT&T was prepared to spend $30 million for three satellite flights — more if they had 
any success. This was the first proposal Glennan had received from industry in which com- 
pany, rather than government, funds were to be committed. 

Almost a week later, on 21 September, as Glennan discussed his upcoming trip to Bell 
Telephone Laboratories for an Echo demonstration, his lawyers and deputy argued that 
his presence would give the appearance of NASA support for AT&T. Glennan was not 
amused. He wrote in his diary: "AT&T is going to be in the business and if we are going 
to take leadership in getting this program off the ground, it seems to me that we have to 
take a positive rather than a negative viewpoint in matters of this kind." Glennan attend- 
ed the demonstration the next day. A picture of Glennan and the six Federal 
Communications Commission (FCC) commissioners in attendance was transmitted by fac- 
simile to the Naval Research Laboratory, then returned to Bell in Holmdel, New Jersey, 
via the Echo balloon. Glennan was impressed." 

Nonetheless, the development of administration policy on communications satellites 
did not move forward during the final days of the Eisenhower administration. November 
came and went with no sign of the cabinet paper Glennan had proposed reading since 
July and had promised for the 1 1 November 1960 cabinet meeting. Glennan seems to have 
been surprised that 1 1 November was a holiday. Generals Wilton B. Persons (Eisenhower's 
chief of staff) and Andrew J. Goodpaster (White House staff secretary) chided Glennan, 
telling him that the president wanted to mention communications satellites in his State of 
the Union message. On 7 December 1959, Glennan, Nunn, and Johnson met with repre- 
sentatives of AT&T in their Manhattan offices. Glennan suggested that AT&T might be 
better off by minimizing its role in satellite communications to avoid monopoly problems. 
The provision of ground stadons for the upcoming satellite program at no cost to the gov- 
ernment would be a good start, he suggested. 

The next day at a NASA meeting on the subject, Abe Silverstein, NASA's director of 
space flight programs, objected strongly to the presence of private companies in the com- 
munications satellite business. Glennan was amazed. Another meeting with AT&T, this time 
in Washington, included the details of their program. The program impressed Glennan, 

35. Ibid., pp. 189-207. 

36. Ibid., pp. 207-10. 

37. Ibid., pp. 232-34. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 105 

but he was beginning to believe that the Washington establishment was too anti-business to 
tolerate an AT&T monopoly of satellite communications. After giving Eisenhower a copy 
of the communications satellite briefing paper on 19 December, Glennan presented the 
paper to the whole cabinet on 20 December 1959. Eisenhower released the details of the 
paper at the end of the month as his communications satellite policy. It emphasized the 
traditional private nature of the U.S. telecommunications industry.^ 

On 23 December 1959, as most members of the Eisenhower administration were pack- 
ing their bags, and while Keith Glennan was taking his Christmas holiday, Robert Nunn 
and John Johnson met with Attorney General William P. Rogers to discuss NASA's future 
relationship with AT&T. Nunn, the special assistant for communications satellite policy, 
was not a political appointee; he and General Counsel Johnson continued at NASA under 
the Kennedy presidency. They outlined key elements of future NASA policy. Nunn 
believed that "AT&T [was] realistically the only company capable of doing the job." On 
the other hand, the monopoly power of AT&T and its attempt to "preempt" the role of 
communications satellite builder and operator "would in effect select AT&T as the 'cho- 
sen instrument' of the United States." Rogers argued that the government must not act to 
put AT&T in a preemptive position, nor must it appear to do so. Moreover, Rogers 
advised, "the Executive Branch probably should obtain at least the acquiescence of 
Congress." Nunn and Johnson showed Rogers the Glennan position paper, which the 
White House had released. Although he had no overall problem with the paper, Rogers 
objected to two sentences that specified "private enterprise" and rejected government 
operation of a communications satellite system. The sentences remained in the statement.** 

The Kennedy Administration Takes Control 

Before his election, John F. Kennedy's attitudes toward the space program are not 
clear, but his transition team developed some strong feelings about the space program in 
general and about satellite communications in particular. Jerome B. Wiesner, assigned the 
task of examining the U.S. space program and advising the president, was critical of the 
space program. In particular, he believed that developing a satellite communications sys- 
tem was beyond the investment capabilities of industry.'"' Wiesner, though, had proposed 
a joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. communications satellite program in 1959.^' Lying beneath Wiesner's 
evaluation of communications satellites was a strong belief that this new technology 
should not become an AT&T monopoly. The Kennedy administration was prepared to 
overturn the Eisenhower view that private industry was the logical candidate to develop 
commercial satellite communications. They were not alone inside Washington. 

Despite the positive temper of talks between NASA and AT&T, NASA civil servants made 
it clear that they were against AT&T involvement in satellite communications. As Glennan 
wrote in his diary: "[Leonard] Jaffe and Silverstein seem[ed] determined that anything 
short of having someone other than AT&T win the competition will be tantamount to fol- 
lowing a 'chosen instrument' policy."'^ Glennan had done his best, but he left behind civil 
servants who seemed strongly biased against private industry, or at least against AT&T. 

38. Ibid., pp. 278-92. 

39. Robert G. Nunn, "Memorandum for the Record," 23 December 1960, Nunn Papers, NASA History 

40. Committee on Science and Astronautics, Defense Space Interests, 87th Cong., 1st sess., 1961, 
(87) H1857-2, pp. 22-23. 

41. George B. Kistiakowsky, A Scientist at the White House (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 
1976), p. 52. 

42. Glennan, The Birth of NASA, p. 303. 

106 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

That bias permeated NASA policy on satellite ground stations. Both AT&T and ITT 
had offered to provide stations for active communications satellite experiments at no cost 
to the government. NASA accepted AT&T's offer for ground stations in the United States, 
but the space agency felt that the State Department, rather than AT&T, should make 
arrangements for foreign stations. Although AT&T already had cleared the way, NASA 
reached formal agreements with Britain (14 February 1961) and France (16 February 
1961) to participate in the testing of Relay, a medium-altitude repeater, and Rebound, a 
low-altitude balloon reflector. 

Part of defining satellite communications policy involved determining the separate 
responsibilities of NASA and the FCC. Those agencies defined their respective roles in a 
memorandum of understanding signed 27 February 1961. The FCC remained responsi- 
ble for spectrum allocation, while NASA looked after technology and policy.^^ However, 
the question of public versus private ownership remained to be answered. On 27 February 
1961, new NASA Administrator James E. Webb met briefly with Robert Nunn and asked 
for a briefing on communications satellite developments. The following day, Nunn oblig- 
ed. He emphasized that NASA had a policy formation role and suggested that Webb read 
both the United Research report favoring government ownership of communications 
satellites and the Glennan cabinet paper favoring private ownership. 

The question of public versus private satellite ownership also entered the drafting of 
NASA's budget. In March 1961, NASA was preparing its fiscal year 1963 budget estimates. 
The budget rested on several assumptions — namely, no funding for operational systems 
(only demonstrations would receive support) , ground support, or passive satellite devel- 
opment.^^ The NASA fiscal year 1962 budget proposed by the outgoing Eisenhower 
administration included $34.6 million for communications satellite development. Some 
controversy lingered as to how much industry should reimburse NASA for communica- 
tions satellite development. In December 1960, Glennan had asked Budget Director 
Maurice Stans to include the $10 million industry contribution in the NASA budget, so 
that the government would not be dependent on industry. Stans refused. Then, during a 
14 January 1961 press conference on the NASA budget, NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh 
L. Dryden was asked why industry, given their obvious interest, was paying only $10 million. 
Dryden gave an uncommitted response. The following month, Webb, NASA Associate 
Administrator Robert C. Seamans, Jr., and Senator Robert S. Kerr (D-OK) discussed the 
$10 million. Kerr and Webb agreed that the figure should appear in the supplemental bud- 
get, and the $10 million finally showed up in the March amendment to the budget.^^ 

Meanwhile, AT&T was losing ground at NASA headquarters. In April, AT&T 
President Fred Kappel and NASA Administrator James Webb exchanged a curious series 
of letters. In a letter of 5 April 1960, Kappel complained that Webb had stated publicly 
that "NASA [had] yet to receive a firm proposal from any company" to form a communi- 
cations satellite development partnership with NASA. Kappel recapped AT&T's commu- 
nications with NASA over the past year and pointed out that, in its Relay proposal, AT&T 

43. NASA, Aeronautical and Astronautical Events of 1961 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing 
Office, 1962), pp. 4-8; Minutes: Administrator's Staff Meeting, 18 January, 26 January, and 2 February 1961, 
NASA History Office. 

44. Abe Silverstein to Assistant Directors, et al, "Fiscal Year 1963 Preliminary Budget Estimates; addi- 
tional information concerning," 1 March 1961; A. Silverstein to H. Goett, "Designations for Missions and 
Payloads," 1 March 1961, NASA History Office. 

45. Robert C. Seamans, NASA Exit Interview, Seamans Folder, NASA History Office, pp. 13, 25-26; 
Hugh L. Dryden, Press Conference transcript, HJanuary 1961, NASA History Office, p. 21; James E. Webb to 
The Director, Bureau of the Budget, 13 March 1961, NASA History Office; Robert L. Rosholt, An Administrative 
History of NASA, 1958-1963 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966), p. 195. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 107 

had volunteered to share costs, even to contract privately, for rockets and launch facili- 
ties.'^ Webb replied in a rather unfriendly tone: "I am told that your letter of December 
14th was dehvered by a number of your associates [James Fisk and George Best], that an 
extended conference ensued, and that it was made clear that NASA would not permit 
your company, or any other, to pre-empt the program of the United States in this area."'*' 
In contrast, Glennan's response to the 14 December meeting was that AT&T had pro- 
posed "a rather good program."^* The battie lines were being drawn, and AT&T was on 
the wrong side. 

Drawing the Battle Lines 

On 12 April 1961, Russian Major Yuri A. Gagarin achieved the first manned orbital 
flight. A few days later, the Cuban Bay of Pigs debacle ran its ill-fated course. Among the 
many U.S. reactions to these events was an urge to do something spectacular in space 
before the Soviet Union. Some suggested that space was the realm of the military, not 
NASA, the civilian space agency.'" On 20 April 1961, President Kennedy asked Vice 
President Lyndon B. Johnson, in his role as chairman of the Space Council, to recom- 
mend a program for the United States to beat the Soviet Union in space. Johnson replied 
that the United States could probably win a race to the Moon. 

As the United States embarked on this race to the Moon, the FCC became embroiled 
in communications satellite policy. On 19 January 1961, the regulatory agency authorized 
AT&T to launch an experimental communications satellite system. Its only previous sig- 
nificant communications satellite action had been to reopen docket 11866 (known as 
"above 890," because it related to the general allocation of frequencies above 890 mega- 
hertz) in May 1960 (and modified in December 1960 as docket 13522, to address only fre- 
quencies for satellite communications) , which sought views on the frequencies required 
for space communications. In response to what seemed to be a rush to decision in the 
satellite communications arena, the FCC opened docket 14024 in March 1961 to solicit 
opinions on the "administrative and regulatory problems" associated with commercial 
satellite communications systems. 

The responses to FCC dockets 1 1866, 13522, and 14024 figured in the testimony given 
before the House Committee on Science and Astronautics during hearings on communi- 
cations satellites held 8-10 May 1961. Those hearings again demonstrated the willingness 
of private industry to invest and build in the field of satellite communications, but the 
relationship between government and industry had yet to be defined. In his opening 
remarks, committee chair Overton Brooks (D-LA) set the tone: 'The proper relationship 
between Government and Industry must be defined . . . the most desirable business 
arrangements should be determined at the earliest possible time.""^ 

The response of General Electric to FCC docket 14024 mirrored that firm's eagerness 
to join the communications satellite field. The company proposed that the aerospace and 
communications industries joindy raise $250 million to put the General Electric medium- 

46. Fred R. Kappel to James E. Webb, 5 April 1961, copy in John M. Logsdon, gen ed., et ai, Exploring 
the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program, Volume III: Space Applications 
(Washington, DC: NASA, forthcoming). 

47. James E. Webb to Fred R. Kappel, 8 April 1961, in Logsdon, Exploring the Unknown, Volume III: Space 
Applications, forthcoming. 

48. Glennan, The Birth of NASA, p. 290. 

49. This suggestion even came from within NASA. See Don Ostrander to Dr. Seamans, "Reflections on 
the American Posture in Space," 21 April 1961, NASA History Office. 

50. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Communications Satellites, Part 1, 87th Cong., 1st 
sess., 1961, (87) H1898-1-A, p. 1. 

108 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

altitude equatorial system of ten satellites in place using the Atlas-Agena launch vehicle. 
Another $250 million would be needed to build the ground system. General Electric 
pointed out that the communications industry had sufficient expertise to build the 
ground stations, and the aerospace industry had the expertise to build the satellites. 
General Electric was ready to invest $25 to $50 million of its own money in satellite com- 
munications; government support, but not government funding, would be required. As 
did ITT, General Electric called attention to the need for foreign participation and the 
apparent capability of the United States to support only one commercial communications 
satellite system. Moreover, as had all the other presenters except AT&T, General Electric 
emphasized the importance of avoiding a monopoly. 

Lockheed's response to docket 14024 was a proposal for the creation of a new orga- 
nization, Telesat, to operate a global system of geosynchronous communications satellites, 
two over the Atlantic Ocean and two over the Pacific Ocean. Communications carriers, 
other companies, and the general public would own Telesat. Telesat would not have any 
foreign owners, but foreign organizations would have their own ground stations and 
might receive an undivided ownership interest in the satellites, but not in Telesat itself. 
Lockheed foresaw that government subsidy would be advisable during Telesat's early years 
to reap the prestige benefits of inaugurating a global communications satellite system; 
moreover, the $200-$315 million system would not be self-supporting until sometime in 
the mid- to late 1970s. 

Meanwhile, NASA attempted to sort out satellite communications policy and the 
fulfillment of Kennedy's wish to see the United States beat the Soviet Union in space. On 
12 May 1961, shortly after the premature closing of the House hearings, NASA Associate 
Administrator Robert Seamans presented NASA Administrator James Webb and Deputy 
Administrator Hugh Dryden with a summary of the accelerated NASA program proposed 
in response to the president's desire to beat the Soviets. It included communications satel- 
lites, as well as a manned lunar landing and meteorology projects.-'' Memoranda between 
Seamans and NASA counsel Robert Nunn raised the question of why NASA should devel- 
op an operational communications satellite system. As Nunn pointed out, "the communi- 
cations industry continues to affirm its own clear intent and obvious ability to achieve the 
same objective. "'^- 

In any case, NASA was proceeding with its own experimental communications 
satellite program and, in carrying it out, relied on the expertise of private industry. On 
18 May 1961, NASA awarded RCA the contract to build Relay, a medium-altitude repeater 
satellite. Ironically, RCA had stated publicly its preference for a twenty-four-hour satellite. 
Although NASA did not announce the standings, the ranking apparently was (1) RCA, (2) 
Hughes, (3) Philco, and (4) AT&T. Some NASA participants in the evaluation process 
expressed surprise; they had expected the AT&T proposal to be better, if not the best. The 
deciding factor was apparendy the RCA ten-watt traveling-wave tube. AT&T was not entire- 
ly out of the game, however. 

The relationship between government (NASA) and industry still had not been set 
forth when President Kennedy made his speech of 25 May 1961 that challenged the 
nation to land an American on the Moon before the end of the decade. That speech 
included satellite communicaUons as a NASA goal.^^ On 15 June 1961, Kennedy directed 

51. Robert Seamans to James Webb and Hugh Dryden, "Status of planning for an accelerated NASA 
program," 12 May 1961, NASA History Office. 

52. Robert Nunn, "Memorandum for the Associate Administrator," 16 May 1961, Nunn Papers, NASA 
History Office. 

53. NASA News Release 61-1 12, "Statement by James E. Webb, Administrator," and NASA News Release 
61-115, "Budget Briefing," 25 May 1961; Minutes, Administrator's Staff Meeting, Thursday, 25 May 1961, NASA 
History Office. 

Bevond the Ionosphere 109 

the Space Council to study communications satellite policy. The FCC was delaying its 
decision on government-industry joint ventures until the first week of July, after the Space 
Council study. Discussions between NASA and AT&T over patent policy reached a con- 
clusion that pleased the FCC commissioner and the assistant attorney general. This poli- 
cy not only gave the government royalty-free use of AT&T patents, but also licensing 
rights."^^ NASA Administrator Webb had a clear vision of the appropriate spheres of 
responsibility of NASA and the FCC, with which NASA had a memorandum of under- 
standing. The FCC was "to take proper action on the problem of organizing the resources 
of private industry in such a manner as to meet governmental requirements and conform 
to public policy," while NASA had "the job of developing the space technology which any 
private organization authorized by the FCC will be able to utilize to provide communica- 
tion services to the public."" 

The House communications satellite hearings, suspended in May at the request of 
NASA, resumed on 13 July 1961. The purpose of the hearings, in the words of committee 
chair Overton Brooks, was, among others, "to determine the extent that private industry 
should participate in the space communication program." The testimony of Webb is illus- 
trative of his attitude toward industry involvement in communications satellites. When 
questioned about the financial contributions of private industry, Webb responded that 
"there are certain things no private industry can undertake on its own at this particular 
stage of the game."^'' This is a strange comment. As we have seen, AT&T was willing to fund 
communications satellite research and development by itself, and General Electric and 
Lockheed had formed "joint-venture corporations" to develop and operate a commercial 
communications satellite system. 

Webb seems to have been committed to private ownership of the satellite communi- 
cations system, preferably by a joint venture of international communications carriers as 
proposed by the FCC. Webb also seems to have been committed to NASA control of space 
policy and space technology issues. His stand on offering launch services to industry, fur- 
thermore, seemed to have shifted. In May 1961, he was willing to launch an AT&T satel- 
lite, but he had not been willing the month before when his acrimonious correspondence 
with Kappel took place. 

Webb told Fred Kappel of AT&T that NASA would sell him launch services. Shortly 
thereafter, NASA announced the award of the Relay contract to RCA; then on 27 July 
1961, NASA and AT&T entered into agreements for the reimbursable launch of Telstar. 
On 1 1 August 1961, NASA signed a sole-source contract with Hughes to build Syncom, its 
first geosynchronous satellite." 

By the end of 1961, two passive experiments (NASA/ AT&T's Echo balloon and DoD's 
Project West Ford), two medium-altitude active experiments (NASA/RCA's Relay and 
AT&T's Telstar), and two geosynchronous experiments DoD/General Electric's Advent 
and NASA/Hughes's Syncom) were under way. All technological options were in play. 
General William M. Thames, then commander of the Army Advent Management Agency, 
testified before Congress that the military Advent satellite system could handle all traffic 
needs and would be ready in 1965. Webb and Dr. Edward C. Welsh, Executive Director of 
the Space Council, both testified at the same hearing that only one system would be viable. 
Webb stated that "you simply cannot start two or three communication satellite 

54. Minutes, Administrator's Staff Meeting, Thursday, 22 June 1961, NASA History Office. 

55. House Committee on Science and Astronaurics, Communications Satellites, Part 1, 87th Cong., 1st 
sess.. 1961, (87) H1898-1-A, p. 464. 

56. Ibid., p. 461. 

57. In a 1960 conversation with Seamans, Glennan had suggested just such a "sole-source" procurement 
of the Hughes system after the policy had been worked out. Seamans NASA Exit Interview, p. 28. 

110 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

systems. . . . Therefore, the Government policy has been to say we will create the condi- 
tions under which one system will be established."-* 

The situation called for some policy direction from the White House. That policy was 
shaped by Edward Welsh, former legislative assistant to Senator Stuart Symington and, 
since 1951, a member of the Senate Aeronautics and Space Sciences Committee who had 
helped draft the Space Act of 1958. Welsh's experience made him somewhat a political 
partisan and a strong advocate of "trust-busting." Soon after his appointment by Kennedy 
to the Space Council, Welsh suggested that the communications satellite policy was a 
natural for the Space Council. In the next year, he dedicated more staff time to this issue 
than any other. Welsh influenced Kennedy's 25 May 1961 speech that committed the 
United States to building a global communications satellite system. 

Kennedy wanted the system to be global, be sensitive to the needs of the developing 
world, and serve the public interest. In response to a request from the president to pre- 
pare a policy recommendation aimed at accelerating the creation of an operational com- 
munications satellite, Welsh drafted a statement favoring private ownership and control 
and circulated it among staff members from DoD, NASA, the State Department, the 
Atomic Energy Commission, the FCC, the Justice Department, the Office of Civil Defense 
Management, the Bureau of the Budget, and the Office of the Science Advisor. Even 
before the paper was published, Welsh publicly stated that the Space Council did not favor 
government operation of the satellite system.^'' 

After Welsh presented the paper at the Space Council meeting of 5 July 1961, 
President Kennedy released the paper on 24 July. The paper proposed placing responsi- 
bility for the communications satellite system in private hands. It assigned government the 
roles of regulation, negotiation with foreign countries and organizations, research and 
development, and launch services. Subsequently, several liberal members of Congress sent 
Kennedy a letter suggesting that the government avoid any decision that might result in a 
satellite communications monopoly.** 

In November 1961, President Kennedy asked the Space Council to prepare a plan for 
implementing the program outlined in the 24 July 1961 statement. Welsh decided that 
implementation would require legislation, so in September, he hired Dr. Charles S. 
Sheldon from the Congressional Research Service as a technical expert. Sheldon, the son 
of an engineer, had a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard. He and Welsh were the primary 
writers of the proposed legislation. Welsh felt, as Glennan had before him, that a policy 
vacuum on communications satellites existed. Welsh also was concerned that, if the pro- 
posed system were to be privately owned and operated, it must be competitive, not a 
monopoly. The final version of the plan went to the White House on 30 November 1961. 


At this point. Congress began to play a role in shaping communications satellite poli- 
cy. The House had studied the issue as early as 1959, when its Committee on Science and 
Astronautics held hearings on "Satellites for World Communications."**' In early 1962, 

58. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Communications Satellites, Part 2, 87th Cong., 1st 
sess., 1961, (87) H1898-1-B, p. 739. 

59. Hal Taylor, "Council Favors Private Ownership," Missiles and Rockets 9 (3 July 1961): 11, 40. 

60. Letter, Hubert Humphrey, Estes Kefauver, Wayne Morse, et al, to Kennedy, 24 August 1961, reprint- 
ed in Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Communications Satellite Act of 1962, 87th Cong., 2d sess., 1962, 
(87) S15394, pp. 51-54. 

61. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Satellites for World Communications, 86th Cong., 1st 
sess., 1959, (86) H1733-3. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 111 

three communications satellite bills were introduced into the Senate: the Kerr bill (S. 
2650, introduced 11 January 1962); the administration bill (S. 2814, 27 January 1962); 
and the Kefauver bill (S. 2890, 26 February 1962)/' 

The Kerr bill, which resembled the FCC position, favored ownership by a consortium 
of existing communications carriers. The bill would mandate the creation of a new cor- 
poration capitalized at $500 million. Shares, at $100,000 each, would be sold in minimum 
lots of five to U.S. common carriers authorized by the FCC. The Kerr bill would prohibit 
AT&T from going its own way, but would do little to minimize AT&T's domination of 
international telephony, as the firm probably would buy a plurality, if not a majority, of the 
shares. Senator Robert Kerr also was a cosponsor of the administration bill, so it is unclear 
how committed he was to his own bill. Delbert D. Smith, a lawyer who studied these events, 
has suggested that Kerr might have been trying to make the Administration bill look like 
the middle ground between carrier ownership (his bill) and government ownership (the 
Kefauver bill) .*' 

The Kefauver bill, inspired by that Senator Estes Kefauver's distrust of industry's — 
especially AT&T's — monopolistic tendencies, called for a communications satellite system 
owned and operated by the government. Kefauver supported his proposal with three main 
arguments. First, private ownership would evolve into a monopoly. Second, the initial sys- 
tem would of necessity consist of low-altitude satellites inferior to geosynchronous satel- 
lites; investment in this initial inferior system would delay the creation of a superior geo- 
synchronous system. Third, because satellites were developed at government expense, the 
benefits should accrue to the public, not to profit-making private corporations. 

The administration bill steered a middle course between the Kefauver and Kerr bills. 
It assumed that private ownership maximized efficiency. As did the Kerr bill, the 
Administration bill called for the formation of a new corporation, but one with a broad 
ownership base. Not only international carriers, but other corporations and private citi- 
zens could purchase shares. The administration bill also placed limits on the number of 
shares any single entity could own. Foreign organizations could own shares, too, as well as 
ground stations." 

Despite Kefauver's arguments, it is obvious in hindsight that the bill did not delay geo- 
synchronous systems; Early Bird, Comsat's first satellite, launched in March 1965, had a 
geosynchronous orbit. It is also obvious that the costs of satellite development were borne 
by both government and industry. AT&T paid for the development of Telstar and reim- 
bursed NASA for the launch services. Hughes paid the development costs of the 
protoflight Syncom satellite, although NASA underwrote the construction of the actual 
flight models. Only Relay was entirely a government-funded satellite, but the remarkably 
short time between contract award and launch suggests that RCA had been spending its 
own money for some time. Only launch vehicles were completely funded by the govern- 
ment, and, given AT&T's willingness to pay for launches, this did not have to be the case. 

The introduction of these three bills in the Senate made it clear that AT&T's invest- 
ment in satellite manufacturing was wasted. The operating system was to be either spon- 
sored or entirely operated by the government, with no place for AT&T satellites. AT&T, 
though, had spent more money on ground stations than on satellites, because the large 
number of satellites in low orbit proposed for AT&T's Telstar system favored the building 

62. Delbert D. Smith, Communication via Satellite: A Vision in Retrospect (Boston: A.W. SijthofT, 1976), pp. 

63. Ibid., p. 104. 

64. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Communications Satellite Act of 1962, 87th Cong., 2d sess., 
1962, (87) SI 539-4, pp. 13-21. 

112 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

of simple satellites and complex ground stations. The horn-and-maser AT&T ground sta- 
tion design, however, lost out to cheaper designs using parabolic dish antennas and para- 
metric amplifiers. Telstar would not bring home any profits, and AT&T could not fall back 
on just pride in its performance. Problems discovered in testing caused AT&T to request 
a launch delay. •*•' AT&T's pride was taking a lot of hits. 

AT&T also suffered from the restrictions placed on it as a prerequisite for participat- 
ing in the communications satellite program. NASA had rights, including licensing rights, 
to all AT&T communications satellite inventions after May 1961. NASA, not AT&T, would 
undertake all negotiations with foreign government telecommunications administrations. 
NASA would coordinate all tests and all publicity. AT&T found none of these restrictions 
acceptable, but the firm was more interested in building satellites and ground stations 
than in debating terms. 

As AT&T's star fell, Hughes's rose. That firm had redesigned the Syncom satellite to 
accommodate its launch on a Thor-Delta from Cape Canaveral. In the process, Syncom 
grew from thirty to sixty pounds. The added weight permitted the addition of new design 
features. Syncom was a joint program of NASA and DoD. Although the Syncom commu- 
nications capability was often disparaged as "only one voice-channel," it had one advan- 
tage over Relay and Telstar: the Syncom transponder could be used continuously, not just 
when the batteries were fully charged. The lightweight, low-power Hughes traveling-wave 
tube was a key part of its success.*^"^ Harold Rosen of Hughes and Leonard Jaffe of NASA 
began discussions concerning potential improvements to Syncom, and in February 1962, 
Hughes presented its plans to NASA for the Syncom Mark 11.'^' The Hughes Syncom held 
great promise. It could be sold to the congressionally approved satellite system operating 
organization, Comsat, the U.S. military, foreign customers, and perhaps NASA, too.'^** 

In the faceoff between medium-altitude and geosynchronous satellites, the successful 
launch of AT&T's Telstar on 10 July 1962 demonstrated that medium-altitude communi- 
cations satellites were eminently practical. However, this did nothing to improve AT&T's 
chances of operating such a system, for by then it was clear that Congress, out of fear of 
creating a monopoly, would not allow AT&T to do so. 

Following the introduction of the three communications satellite bills in the Senate, 
Congressman Oren Harris introduced H.R. 11040, which was identical to the Kerr bill, in 
the House on 2 April 1962. The bill passed the House 354 to 9 on 3 May.'^" Meanwhile, the 
Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences reported favorably on Kerr's bill 
on 2 April 1962."" The Senate Commerce Committee then reported favorably on the Kerr 
bill, and it was brought before the full Senate on 14 June 1962. 

The movement toward private operation by a consortium of communications carriers 
seemed to be gathering momentum, although Senator Kefauver and his allies attacked the 
bill for several days. On 21 June 1962, the bill was withdrawn to allow other business to be 
completed. When the debate on the bill resumed a month later on 26 July, a different cli- 
mate prevailed. On 10 July 1962, AT&T had succeeded in launching the first Telstar satellite. 

65. Dickieson, 'TELSTAR," pp. 85-130. 

66. Ibid., pp. 157-91. 

67. Described in the brochure of Hughes Aircraft Company titled SYNCOM, NASA History Office. 

68. Anonymous (C.G. Murphy?), "Policy Statement for Exploitation of HAG [Hughes Aircraft 
Company] Communications Satellites," circa early 1962, Hughes Aircraft Company Archives; Dickieson, "TEL- 
STAR," pp. 85-127, 129-55. Ironically, the Telstar uplink (6,390 megahertz) and downlink (4,170 megahertz) 
frequencies were those land microwave frequencies that AT&T earlier had argued, in the "Above 890" decision, 
would be unsuitable for satellite communications. 

69. "House Votes 354-to-9 Approval of Space Communications Firm," Washington Post, 4 May 1962, p. Al. 

70. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Communications Satellite Act of 1962, 87th Cong., 2d sess., 
1962, (87) SI 539-4, passim. 

Bevond the Ionosphere 


After receiving the approval of the Foreign Relations Committee on 10 August 1962, 
the Kerr bill came before the full Senate, where it immediately became the subject (again) 
of a filibuster by Senators Estes Kefauver (D-TN), Albert Gore (D-TN), Wayne Morse 
(D-OR), Russell Long (D-LA), Ralph Yarborough (D-TX), Maurine Neuberger (D-NY), 
Ernest Gruening (D-AK), and Paul Douglas (D-IL). In an effort to end the filibuster, the 
Senate passed a historic cloture motion on 14 August 1962 by a vote of sixty-three to twen- 
ty-seven. The Senate passed the amended House bill by a vote of sixty-six to eleven on 
17 August; ten days later, the House passed the amended bill. President Kennedy signed 
it into law as the Communications Satellite Act on 31 August 1962.^' 

Figure 19 
President Kennedy played a key and lasting role in shaping the development of satellite communications. His administration 
blocked the extension of AT&T's monopoly of terrestrial telecommunications into space. In his famous 25 May 1961 speech, 
which declared the United States would land a human on the Moon by the end of the decade, Kennedy also committed the 
United States to building a global communications satellite system. Depicted above: On 31 August 1962, the President signed 
into law the Communications Satellite Act, which called for government creation of a private corporation, the Communications 
Satellite Corporation (Comsat). (Courtesy of NASA) 

The Communications Satellite Act mandated that the government create a private 
corporation, the Communications Satellite Corporation, now commonly known as 
Comsat. On 4 October 1962, President Kennedy named the thirteen members (called 

71. The political actions leading to the passage of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962 have been 
studied in great detail in books, articles, and dissertations. Much of the debate is detailed in the various pub- 
lished hearings. The description above is compiled from various sources, especially Smith, "Civilian Space 
Applications"; Jonathan F. Galloway, The Politics and Technology of Satellite Communications (Lexington, MA: 
Lexington Books, 1972); Michael E. Kinsley, Ou^ S/>a<:* and /nn«^SanrtMww (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976). 

114 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Incorporators) of the temporary Comsat board of directors: six lawyers, three financiers, 
one labor representative, and one engineer. Beardsley Graham, the engineer, had worked 
at the Stanford Research Institute and Lockheed, where he had been active in satellite 
communications studies carried out in partnership with GTE and RCA. The conclusion of 
the Lockheed studies was that the main issues were business, regulatory, and internation- 
al relations, not technical. Graham also was convinced that geosynchronous systems would 
be in place in the near future. ^^ 

The first task of Comsat was to incorporate, which it did in the District of Columbia 
on 1 February 1963. Its second task was to issue stock, perhaps worth as much as $500 mil- 
lion." The stock would have to be sold before any election of the board of directors. 
Before any stock was sold, however, Comsat obtained FCC authorization to borrow up to 
$5 million from banks, including Continental Illinois, of which David Kennedy, an 
Incorporator, was an officer. 

Meanwhile, the board of directors was undergoing some key changes in personnel. 
During January 1963, Chairman Philip Graham resigned. The following month, the cor- 
poration announced that Leo D. Welch of Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) had been 
named chairman and that Under Secretary of the Air Force Joseph V. Charyk had been 
named president of Comsat. Welch's background was in international finance; Charyk's 
background was technical and included significant experience in reconnaissance satellites.''' 

In addition to the standard problems associated with getting a company off the 
ground, Comsat had three major concerns: (1) satisfying Congress; (2) maintaining good 
relations with the Europeans; and (3) deciding on what the eventual operational system 
would look like. Congress was unhappy with the high salaries paid to Welch and Charyk 
($125,000 and $80,000 per year, respectively), their luxurious offices in a Washington 
mansion (Tregaron), and the general uncertainty involved in the enterprise." The 
Europeans were not certain whether they wanted to be part of any American system. In 
December 1962, the Conference of European Postal and Telecommunications 
Administrations formed a committee to study the issue of joining an American-led global 
communications system. While recognizing that the majority of international telecom- 
munications traffic originated or terminated in the United States, the Europeans were 
anxious to gain maximum control and make equipment sales.™ Deciding on Comsat's 
operational system — geosynchronous versus medium-altitude — ^was a more complicated 

72. Beardsley Graham, "Satellite Communication," International Science and Technology 13 (January 
1963): 69-74. 

73. Jack Raymond, "President Names Satellite Board," Neiu York Times, 5 October 1962, p. 1. 

74. "Satellite Job is Resigned by Graham," Washington Evening Star, 26 January 1963, p. A9; "Satellite 
Firm Selects Top Officers, Hints at Stock Sale in a Year," Wall Street Journal, 28 February 1963, p. 32; Associated 
Press, "Welch, Charyk Picked to Head Satellite Firm," Washington Post, 1 March 1963, p. A3. 

75. John W. Finney, "Space Radio Plan Creating Doubts," New York Times, 24 April 1963, p. 2. 

76. Cecil Brownlow, "U.S.-Europe Comsat Agreement Predicted," Aviation Week & Space Technology 78 
(22 April 1963): 74-75. 

Bevond the Ionosphere 115 

Geosynchronous or Medium-Altitude Orbit? 

The choice of a Comsat system was becoming ever more urgent. In July 1963, the FCC 
made public its concern that Comsat "no longer has definite plans for an early issue of 
stock." The appointed Comsat board was in the position of making decisions about the 
future of the company, which should have been made by the shareholders. Comsat respond- 
ed by suggesting that decisions had to be made about the system configuration before issu- 
ing stock. Until a basic program was outlined, it was unclear how much equity capital should 
be acquired, and it was uncertain how to categorize risks, which was a legal requirement." 

Support for a geosynchronous Comsat operating system had been growing for some 
time. In September and October 1962, the Applications Subcommittee of the House 
Committee on Science and Astronautics had held hearings on "Commercial 
Communications Satellites" for the purpose, in the words of Congressman Ken Hechler 
(D-WV), of determining "the most effective and least expensive system for commercial 
development"'" — specifically, whether the system should be in geosynchronous or 
medium-altitude orbit. Representatives of Hughes, NASA, AT&T, the office of the direc- 
tor of Defense Research and Engineering (to which ARPA reported), the State 
Department, and the U.S. Information Agency gave testimony; by far the longest presen- 
tations were those by Hughes and NASA. 

Making the case for a geosynchronous system were Fred Adler, Hughes Space Systems 
Division Manager, and Gordon Murphy, Syncom Program Manager. It seems that Murphy 
starded the committee members when he stated that in addition to the NASA contract for 
three Syncom satellites, a NASA study contract for advanced satellites also was in place. 
Furthermore, Murphy declared, "we expect that the later contract will lead to an initial 
operational communication satellite demonstration in the first half of 1964. We call the 
advanced satellite Syncom Mark II." 

Murphy outlined the work conducted at Hughes from 1959 to 1961 on satellite design 
and testing, all with company funds. As a result, Hughes could launch its first Syncom only 
17 months after signing a contract. This was less than RCA's 19 months from contract 
startup to launch Relay, but more than AT&T's 14 months from contract startup to launch 
Telstar. However, Murphy told the committee that Hughes needed a NASA commitment 
by March 1963 to build flight vehicles, as well as a NASA commitment to build ground sta- 
tions. The Telstar, Relay, and Syncom ground stations were all owned by others. Murphy's 
major argument for a geosynchronous system was that it could be installed sooner than a 
medium-altitude system because fewer satellites would have to be launched, and the sim- 
plicity of the ground stations allowed them to be installed much more quickly.'^ 

Actual satellite launch experience, however, seemed to favor the medium-altitude 
satellites, such as Telstar and Relay. The Telstar and Relay satellites had been launched rel- 
atively successfully, but Syncom failed after its injection into geosynchronous orbit.™ Most 

77. Robert C. Tolh, "F.C.C. Sees Delay in Space Stock," New York Times, 27 July 1963, p. 3; "Satellite 
Corp., Prodded by FCC, May Tell More This Week About Plans for Stock Sale," Wall Street Journal, 29 July 1963, 
p. 7. 

78. House Committee on Science and Astronautics, Commercial Communications Satellites, 87th Cong., 2d 
sess., 1962, (87) H1898-4, p. 1. 

79. Ibid., pp. 1-4. 

80. "S. African Observatory Spots Missing Syncom," Washin^on Post, 1 March 1963, p. A8; "Development 
of the Relay Communications Satellite," Interavia 17 (June 1962): 758-59; Sidney Metzger and Robert H. 
Pickard, "RELAY," Astronautics and Aerospace Engineering 1 (September 1963): 64-67; NASA, Final Report on the 
Relay 1 Program (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1965), pp. 63-90; Robert E. Warren, 
"Syncom I Progress Report No. 4," 4 March 1963, NASA History Office. 

116 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

analysts felt that geosynchronous satellites held the most promise. Syncom subsequently 
showed that geosynchronous orbit was attainable, but the satellite's light weight con- 
strained the communications payload to a single telephone circuit, which was significant- 
ly less than the wideband capabilities of Relay and Telstar. 

Support for a geosynchronous system also began to appear in the literature. For 
example, in September 1963, Siegfried Reiger and Joseph Charyk of Comsat published 
articles in the journal of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics that out- 
lined the system's technical choices. In summarizing the problem of orbit selection, 
Reiger admitted that most engineers agreed that a medium-altitude system could be made 
operational sooner than a geostationary system, "[b]ut there also appears to be general 
agreement that in the long run the [geo-] stationary-satellite concept offers the greatest 
promise and growth potential." Reiger made the point that insufficient geostationary 
satellite experience existed to evaluate the problems associated with this orbit."' 

Meanwhile, NASA continued to underwrite Hughes's Syncom experimental geosyn- 
chronous satellite program. Within a year of receiving a sole-source contract from NASA 
to build three Syncom satellites, Hughes Aircraft Company engineers began studies of an 
Advanced Syncom, a geosynchronous satellite whose payload would support thousands of 
voice circuits rather than the "single voice circuit" of its predecessor Syncoms. The travel- 
ing-wave tubes would be more powerful; the antenna would direct most of its energy 
toward the Earth's surface; and the satellite transponders would allow more than one 
ground station to use the same transponder at the same time.**' 

NASA's funding of Syncom did not go unnoticed, however. Congressional objections 
to the spending of taxpayer dollars for the benefit of a private corporation, Comsat, made 
NASA's job particularly difficult. In an effort to allow more time for Syncom 2 to prove 
itself, and to persuade Congress of the benefits of Advanced Syncom, NASA extended the 
Hughes study contract another two months in June 1963."' The successful launch of 
Syncom on 26 July 1963 made it clear that geosynchronous satellites were practical. 
Complex ground station problems were solved with apparent ease; the on-board jets suc- 
cessfully corrected the satellite's drift and positioned it over the Atiantic Ocean, ready to 
carry traffic.""* 

Hughes was extremely active in attempting to find additional markets for Syncom. 
One idea, resurrected from a suggestion made by Hughes's Donald D. Williams in 1959, 
before Harold Rosen convinced him communications was a better application, was to use 
Syncom as a navigational system."' More, immediate was the unsuccessful attempt to per- 
suade DoD that the Hughes geosynchronous satellite system performed better than its 
medium-altitude competitor."" More productive were Hughes's discussions with Robert R. 
Gilruth, Apollo Program Manager and Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, to 

81. Siegfried H. Reiger, "Commercial Satellite Systems," Astronautics and Aerospace Engineering 1 
(September 1963): 26-30; Joseph V. Charyk, "Communications Satellite Corporation: Objectives and Problems," 
Astronautics and Aerospace Engineering I (September 1963): 45-47. 

82. Paul E. Norsell, "SYNCOM," Astronautics and Aerospace Engineering \ (September 1963): 76-78; NASA 
Press Release, 'Technical Background Briefing Project SYNCOM," 29 January 1963, NASA History Office. 

83. R. Darcey to H. Goett, 14 June 1963, quoted in Weitzel, 'The Origins of ATS," NASA HHN-83, 1968 
(unpublished), p. 50, NASA History Office. 

84. R.W. Cole to D.D. Williams, "Summary of Orbital Data for Syncom 2 (A-26)," 18 August 1963, 
Hughes Aircraft Company Archives. 

85. L.M. Field to L.A. Hyland, "Possible use of Syncom as a Navigational System— Microwave Loran," 9 
August 1963, Hughes Aircraft Company Archives. 

86. C.G. Murphy to L.A. Hyland, "Synchronous Altitude Communication Satellite System," 16 
September 1963, Hughes Aircraft Company Archives. 

Be\dnd the Ionosphere 117 

use Syncom for communications links among Project Apollo's widespread tracking sta- 
tions."' Attempts to find additional markets accelerated in the wake of the news that NASA 
would not pursue the Advanced Syncom flight program. As NASA Administrator James 
Webb thought, Congress would not allow NASA to fund hardware development because 
of the perception that NASA was subsidizing Comsat.*** 

The Early Bird Hatched 

Meanwhile, Comsat still was trying to choose the base satellite system orbit. Among 
the announcements the firm made at the end of 1963 was a request for proposals for a 
satellite design, either medium-altitude orbit or geosynchronous orbit, which would con- 
stitute Comsat's basic system. No decision on the basic system would be made until after 
the designs had been evaluated.**^ 

The choice of communications satellite system orbit was not easy. AT&T and the mil- 
itary were convinced that medium-altitude satellites were best, while many others believed 
that high-altitude, geosynchronous satellites were preferable. NASA seemed to be leaning 
toward both geosynchronous and medium-altitude satellites. For example, in April 1962, 
Milton Stoller, director of NASA's Office of Applications, stated that "when all the tech- 
nology is in hand, it will be the synchronous-orbit satellites which will be the most attrac- 
tive to us."** However, in September 1962, Leonard Jaffe, director of the communications 
group under Stoller, suggested that a medium-altitude system similar to Telstar would be 
best." Then, on 25 February 1963, NASA announced its intention to concentrate on geo- 
stationary satellites. All of these opinions and decisions complicated Comsat's task of 
selecting a satellite operating system. 

The Comsat request for proposals received four responses in early February 1964. 
One design group consisted of AT&T teamed with RCA, while another had TRW teamed 
with ITT. Hughes and Philco individually submitted the other two proposals.^^ Neither the 
Philco, the AT&T-RCA, nor the TRW-ITT proposal was for a geosynchronous system. 
Hughes had the only geosynchronous satellite proposal."^ 

Many experts assumed that the initial commercial system would be placed in a medi- 
um-altitude orbit. In December 1963, Hughes proposed a commercial version of Syncom, 
which would be ready for launch in early 1965 and which could serve both experimental 
and operational needs. Without committing to a geosynchronous orbit for the basic sys- 
tem, whose characteristics were to be determined later, Comsat accepted the Hughes pro- 
posal and launched an "early bird" prior to making a final decision on system type. This 
"early bird" would consist of "a synchronous satellite orbited on an experimental- 

87. L.A. Hyland to Robert Gilruth, 21 October 1963, Hughes Aircraft Company Archives. 

88. R.E. Warren to R. Garbarini, 10 September 1963; and R. Garbarini to H. Goett, 24 September 1963, 
both quoted in Weitzel, The Origins of ATS," pp. 55—56. 

89. Comsat Press Release, "Commercial Commimications Satellite Engineering Design Proposals 
Requested of Industry; Corporation Regards Move As Major Step," 22 December 1963, NASA History Office. 

90. "NASA's ComSat Funding to Climb," Missiles and Rockets 10 (2 April 1962): 17. 

91. "NASA sees TELSTAR-Type Satellite as Best for World-Wide System," Aviation Week & Space 
Technology 77 (24 September 1962): 40. 

92. There were several problems associated with these teams. Philco and TRW had teamed on medium- 
altitude communications satellites. ITT was an adviser to DoD on medium-altitude communications satellites. It 
was quite possible that medium-altitude communications satellites would be canceled, and Comsat would pro- 
vide the capability required by the military. 

93. "Communications Satellite Corp. Gets Bids for Designing System From Six Companies," Wall Street 
Journal, 12 February 1964, p. 1; Cecil Brownlow, "International Comsat Agency Considered," Aviation Week & 
Space Technology 80 (17 February 1964): 34. 


Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Figure 20 
Early Bird, shown here, was Comsat's first satellite. Launched in March 1965 into a geosynchronous orbit. Early Bird (known 
also as Intelsat I) suggested the commercial potential of communications satellites. (Courtesy of NASA, photo no. 66-H-150) 

operational basis in 1965, with a bandwidth and power which can provide a capability for 
television or, alternatively, for facsimile, data, or telegraphic message traffic or for up to 
240 two-way telephone channels."^'' 

Comsat considered Early Bird, as the satellite came to be called, as both experimen- 
tal and commercial, but not the final system choice. Comsat proposed to make the 
satellite available for commercial use after conducting tests with it. Part of the Early Bird 
rationale was the success of Syncom (launched 26 July 1963) and the resulting desire to 
experiment with a similar satellite operating at so-called commercial frequencies (at four 
and six gigahertz). 

Before Early Bird construction could begin, however, Comsat needed FCC approval. 
The FCC was not comfortable with Comsat's intent to use the AT&T Andover ground sta- 
tion. It preferred that Comsat own and operate its own ground stations.*^ On 4 March 
1964, Comsat requested permission from the FCC to launch Early Bird in early 1965 into 
geostationary orbit over the Atlantic Ocean. The eighty-five-pound (38.6-kilogram) satel- 
lite was to provide 240 voice circuits or one television channel. AT&T planned to lease 

94. Comsat Press Release, "Commercial Communications Satellite Engineering Design Proposals." 

95. John J. Kelleher to Leonard Jaffe, Memorandum, "FCC Action on Early Bird," 24 January 1964, Jaffe 
papers, NASA History Office. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 119 

100 circuits on Early Bird to handle peak telephone loads and for cable replacement. In 
April, the FCC approved the launch of Early Bird/^* 

Before the launch of its Early Bird satellite, Comsat received a strong vote of confi- 
dence from the business world. The first five million shares of Comsat stock (at $20 each) 
were sold exclusively to communications common carriers. By the 23 March 1964 dead- 
line, more than 200 carriers had notified the FCC of their interest in purchasing Comsat 
shares, and by 26 May 1964 (the official deadline for bidding on shares), AT&T had 
offered to purchase $85 million of the $100 million worth of shares reserved for commu- 
nications carriers. Because the stock was oversubscribed, AT&T was permitted to buy stock 
worth only $57.9 million, or 29 percent of all shares. ITT bought stock worth $21 million 
(11 percent); GTE took $7 million (4 percent); and RCA got $5 million (3 percent). 
Other carriers bought the remaining 5 percent. The Comsat charter stipulated that the 
communications carriers elect six members of the board of directors and that each hold- 
er of 8 percent of total shares earned a director's seat. Consequently, AT&T had at least 
three seats guaranteed, and ITT had at least two seats.^^ 

The second set of five million shares were sold to the public, with the FCC responsi- 
ble for apportioning sales. When these shares were offered on 2 June 1964, the public 
snapped them up. Comsat stock was very popular — so popular that the size of purchases 
was limited and, as a result, Comsat stock ownership was dispersed. The average public 
shareholder held only twenty-seven shares. Of the 130,000 shareholders, about 120,000 
held less than 100 shares. As a result, there was upward pressure on the stock price (from 
$20 to $48 per share by mid-August 1964).^ 

Entangling Alliances 

As Comsat prepared its experimental Early Bird program and undertook a search for 
the final satellite system design, questions regarding the use of the commercial system by 
the military and foreign organizations had to be resolved. As early as 1960, well before the 
passage of the Communications Satellite Act, international arrangements started when 
AT&T suggested the possibility of a satellite program to its foreign cable partners. Both 
AT&T and NASA continued those discussions throughout 1961 and 1962. While the 
Communications Satellite Act of 1962 was under consideration by Congress, the 
Europeans deliberated their options. 

96. "Ocean Satellite by 1965 is Sought," New York Times, 5 March 1964, p. 4; "Comsat Files with FCC," 
Missiles and Rockets 14 (9 March 1964): 8; "Communications Satellite Firm Negotiates Spacecraft Contract with 
Hughes Aircraft," Wall Street Journal, 17 March 1964, p. 6; "FCC Gives ComSat Go-Ahead," Missiles and Rockets 14 
(20 April 1964): 10. 

97. John P. MacKenzie, "200 Carriers File for Comsat Shares," Washington Post, 24 March 1964, p. 4; 
"Satellite Corp. to Market Stock at $20 a Share," Wall Street Journal, 7 May 1964, p. 32; Philip J. Klass, "Comsat 
Firm Files $200-Million Fund Plan," Aviation Week & Space Technology 80 (11 May 1964): 25-26; Robert Hotz, 
"Selling Shares in Space," Aviation Week isf Space Technology 80 (11 May 1964): 17; John P. MacKenzie, "Industry 
Snaps Up Its Half of Comsat Stock," Washington Post, 28 March 1964, p. 2; "Satellite Corp. Picks 6 Candidates for 
New Board," New York Times, 9July 1964, p. 43C; "Comsat Stock Widely Distributed," Space Daily, 14 August 1964, 
p. 227; S. Oliver Goodman, "130,000 Owners Listed in Initial Report of Comsat," Washington Post, 14 August 
1964, p. D7; John W. Finney, "Comsat Takes On Private Role As Holders Stage First Meeting," New York Times, 18 
September 1964, p. 45; Suzanne Montgomery, "Comsat Board Awaits Senate Nod," Missiles and Rockets 15 (28 
September 1964): 34. 

98. Alexander R. Hammer, "Stock of Comsat Shows a Big Gain," New York Times, 20 August 1964, p. 37; 
"Comsat stock Widely Distributed," Space Daily, 14 August 1964, p. 227; S. Oliver Goodman, "130,000 Owners 
Listed in Initial Report of Comsat," Washington Post, p. D6. 

120 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

They decided that they could maximize their benefits from the U.S. satellite program 
by negotiating as a bloc. In December 1962, the European Conference of Postal and 
Telecommunications Administrations began formal studies to establish a basis for discus- 
sions with the United States. After a series of formal and informal discussions among 
members of the European Conference on Satellite Communications, the Europeans 
agreed that a consortium, rather than the series of bilateral agreements preferred by the 
U.S. State Department, was the best approach, with Comsat serving as the consortium 
manager. During meetings held in Washington, 21-25 July 1964, agreements were 
reached that created the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization 
(known as Intelsat), thereby establishing a framework for the international use of com- 
munications satellites.*' 

While Intelsat furnished a framework for international satellite communications, the 
question of military use remained unanswered. The partial ownership and operation of 
Intelsat by foreign agencies determined that Intelsat could not provide communications 
services for the U.S. military. Therefore, at a press conference on 15 July 1964, Secretary 
of Defense Robert S. McNamara announced that DoD would build its own satellite com- 
munications system. Both Leo Welch and Joseph Charyk of Comsat attempted, in letters 
to McNamara, to "keep the door open" for the military, but Comsat, at least for the 
moment, was not committed to the medium-altitude commimications satellites preferred 
by the Pentagon.'"" 

On 25 January 1965, Comsat — not Congress — reopened the issue of providing com- 
munications satellite services to the military. Comsat proposed launching twenty-four 
Hughes satellites, similar to Early Bird, eight at a time. Comsat blamed the Pentagon for 
the previous debacle, and they wanted to try again. Philco, the winner of the 1963 DoD 
satellite contract competition, had not been able to proceed for more than a year because 
of Comsat's efforts. Philco was annoyed that the whole process had started over again. 
Comsat proposed a sole-source contract with Hughes, leaving Philco out. Philco protest- 
ed to the FCC on the basis that the Communications Satellite Act required competitive 
bidding. Eventually, Philco built the Pentagon's communications satellites, but Comsat's 
political moves delayed launch from 1964 to 1966.'"' 

As Comsat carried out this attempt to capture military customers, Hughes was begin- 
ning to gain momentum in the competition to be the primary provider of communica- 
tions satellites. The year 1964 had begun with a contract for two geosynchronous satellites 
(model HS-303, the Early Bird) for Comsat. In March, NASA had awarded Hughes a con- 
tract for five Applications Technology Satellites, and in August, Syncom 3 was launched 
into geostationary orbit. Syncom 3 relayed television images from the 1964 Tokyo 
Olympic Games to the United States via the Navy ground station at Point Mugu, 
California, and a new ground station at Kashima, northeast of Tokyo. Although the trans- 
mission was not up to "commercial quality," no one really noticed. Many wondered then 
and later if space was the right place to spend human resources, and many critics could 
not discriminate between the practical and the prestigious.'"^ 

99. House Committee on Government Operations, Military Operations Subcommittee, Satellite 
Communications: Military-Civil Roles and Relationships, 88th Cong., 2d sess., 1964, (88) H2086-1-A, pp. 89-96. 

100. Ibid., pp. 11-12, 51-53, 105-13. 

101 . Comsat Press Release, 25 January 1965, NASA History Office; "Comsat's Defense Bid Challenged by 
Philco," The [Washington] Evening Star, 2 February 1965, p. 3; "FCC Bars Comsat Pact," Missiles and Rockets 16 (8 
February 1965): 9; "Comsat to Seek Bids on DoD Comsat," Space Daily, 17 February 1965, pp. 239-40; Larry 
Weekley, "Comsat Bows to FCC, Invites General," Washington Post, 17 February 1965, p. C6. 

1 02. Anthony Michael Tedeschi, Live via Satellite (Washington, DC: Acropolis Books, 1989) , p. 31 ; "Leveled 
on Comsat Olympic Coverage," Space Daily, 14 September 1964, p. 237; "5 Technological Satellites will be 
Developed by Hughes," New York Times, 4 March 1964, p. 7; "Hughes Gets ATS Pact," Missiles and Rockets 14 (9 March 
1964): 8; A.S. Jerrems to H.A. Rosen, "Syncom Publicity," 21 September 1964, Hughes Aircraft Company Archives. 

Bevond the Ionosphere 121 

Comsat was "bullish" on Hughes, but it still was not clear whether the basic Comsat 
system would be geosynchronous. Syncom had been successful, and orbital and attitude 
control seemed to be much simpler than originally thought. However, telephone compa- 
nies (generally) experimented only with the medium-altitude Telstar and Relay satellites 
because Syncom used military, not commercial, frequencies. Comsat stock, selling for 
almost three times the initial offering price, was constantly moving; no one knew what was 
going to happen in the end. Early Bird was eagerly anticipated. 

Early Bird Flies 

U.S. and European demand for Early Bird circuits was building. AT&T wanted to use 
100 of the satellite's 240 circuits, while Canada, Britain, France, and West Germany also 
were anxious to participate."" NASA was responsible for the launch, but except for basic 
tracking services, the space agency had no responsibilities after placing the spacecraft in 
orbit. Comsat personnel performed all the orbital and control functions. Thus, as pre- 
scribed by the Communications Satellite Act, NASA provided launch services, but Comsat 
was in charge.'"'' 

Early Bird was launched on 6 April 1965. The spacecraft was almost identical to 
Syncom 3, but it used commercial (six and four gigahertz) rather than military (eight and 
two gigahertz) frequencies for uplink and downlink communications. Similar to Syncom 
3, Early Bird's orbit was geostationary, not just geosynchronous — that is, its orbit was in 
the plane of the equator, not inclined to it. '"-'The eighty-five-pound (38.6-kilogram) Early 
Bird was a more sophisticated spacecraft than the original twenty-five-pound 
(11.3-kilogram) "commercial communications satellite" that Harold Rosen, Donald 
Williams, and Tom Hudspeth had envisioned in 1959, but it clearly originated in the mod- 
ified design they had developed in I960."* 

Formal Early Bird communications experiments began on 10 April 1965; commercial 
service began on 1 June. Early Bird's 240 voice-channel capacity almost equaled the 
317-channel capacity of all existing Adan tic telephone cables — and it cost much less! The eco- 
nomics of Early Bird were astounding. The most up-to-date underwater telephone cable car- 
ried fewer channels and cost about ten times as much the satellite. Early Bird and its launch 
vehicle cost Comsat around $7 million, a small fraction of its $200 million capitalization. 

Despite the demand for Early Bird telephone channels, an article in U.S. News &' 
World Report emphasized transatlantic television as the most "visible" capability of the new 
satellite."" The linking of Europe and America in a global television extravaganza on 
2 May 1965 perhaps fed that image of the satellite. Before the launch of Early Bird, 
though, Hughes had announced that the technology to build a television broadcast satel- 
lite was available. Harold Rosen of Hughes suggested that Arthur C. Clarke's 1945 dream 
of a television broadcast from space could be made a reality with the NASA Applications 
Technology Satellite program. 

103. Robert C. Cowen, "Commercial Relay Satellite has Date for Spring," Christian Science Monitor, 15 
December 1964, p. 3; Eric Wentworth, "Comsat Gyrations Scrutinized by Federal Agencies in Case a Sudden 
Price Plunge Sparks Public Furor," Wall Street Journal, 22 December 1964, p. 3; "NASA Signs Agreement to 
Launch Comsat's Early Bird," Space Daily, 28 December 1964, p. 269. 

104. W.J. Weber, Memorandum for the Record, "Summary of HS-303, Early Bird Communications 
Satellite Program," 15 January 1965, NASA History Office. 

105. NASA Mission Operations Reports, NASA History Office. 

106. Comsat Press Release, "Early Bird Fact Sheet III: Early Bird," 30 March 1965, NASA Mission 
Operations Reports, NASA History Office. 

107. "As Comsat Gets Down to Business," U.S. News 6= Wcnid Report, 12 April 1965, p. 7. 

122 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

On 13 May 1965, ABC television filed with the FCC for permission to launch a televi- 
sion relay satellite — the first domestic communications satellite. Comsat responded, how- 
ever, that Congress had granted it a monopoly on satellite communications, but it would 
be glad to provide a relay service for ABC. The potential market for a satellite television 
relay was huge. Estimates of AT&T revenues for relaying television on terrestrial circuits 
was about $50 million per year. Nonetheless, telephone traffic was to dominate Comsat 
and Intelsat satellites for many years. Even so, it was clear that television, not telephony, 
captured the public's attention and began to give rise to the notion of the "global village."'"* 

Meanwhile, the scramble for Early Bird telephone circuits was under way. In June 
1965, AT&T filed with the FCC for permission to lease 100 voice channels from Comsat. 
AT&T was still negotiating with European telecommunications administrations, but it 
expected to have thirty-six links with Britain, twelve with West Germany, ten with France, 
and more with other countries. RCA filed for thirty circuits, ITT wanted forty-one, and 
Western Union International sought fifty-five. In all, Comsat had requests for 226 out of 
Early Bird's 240 circuits. 

Commercial service officially was not to start until 27 June 1965, but the FCC granted 
emergency permission to begin commercial service after the failure of one of the transat- 
lantic cables days earlier. The FCC then allocated voice circuits to AT&T (seventy-five cir- 
cuits), ITT (ten), Western Union International (ten), RCA (ten), and Canada (six). AT&T 
managed to find partners for sixty of its circuits, but only one other circuit was in opera- 
tion: an RCA circuit to Germany. European stations were not yet capable of handling the 
full traffic load, so the allocation of all circuits was held in abeyance. A long article in the 
Wall Street Journal bemoaned the slowness of the Europeans.""*' The Europeans were 
making it clear that international telecommunications required two equal partners. They 
were not going to tolerate a global satellite communications system dominated by the 
United States."" 

European developments aside, Comsat was about to acquire a major domestic cus- 
tomer. Negotiations with NASA would provide Project Apollo with high-quality, wideband, 
global communications systems linking NASA's tracking stations in real time with the 
Houston Mission Control Center. This led to Comsat filing an application with the FCC 
on 30 September 1965 to build and launch four geosynchronous communications satel- 
lites to provide NASA those services. Comsat proposed to buy those four satellites from 
Hughes at a total cost of $11.7 million, while NASA assumed a total liability (monies the 
agency would pay if it did not use the system) of $10.5 million for the entire network. At 

108. Barry Miller, "Hughes Proposes TV Broadcast Satellite," Aviation Week &' Space Technology 82 (1 
February 1965): 75-77; Howard Simon, 'Test of Early Bird's TV Heightens Optimism," Washington Post, 8 April 
1965, p. A2; "Early Bird Satellite Relays a TV Signal in a Surprise Test," Wall Street Journal, 8 April 1965, p. 2; "Early 
Bird Orbit is Nearly Perfect," New York Times, 10 April 1965, p. 1 1 ; Suzanne Montgomery, "Early Bird Operation 
May be Speeded," Missiles and Rockets 16 (12 April 1965): 12; Val Adams, "2 Continents See Global TV Today," 
New York Times, 2 May 1965, p. 35; Jack Gould, "Comsat to Assay ABC Satellite," New York Times, 15 May 1965, 
p. 63. 

109. Jerry E. Bishop, "Lagging Early Bird," Wall Street Journal, 2 August 1965, pp. 1,14. 

1 10. "First Formal Bid to be Comsat Customer Filed by AT&T With FCC," Wall Street Journal, 3 June 1965, 
p. 4; "RCA Follows AT&T in Asking to Become Customer of Comsat," Wall Street Journal, 4 June 1965, p. 6; Larry 
Weekley, "Early Bird Line Demand Grows," Washington Post, 8 June 1965, p. D8; "Comsat Gets Go-Ahead to Put 
Early Bird Into Commercial Use," Wall Street Journal, 21 June 1965, p. 3; "Early Bird Given Leasing Go-Ahead," 
New York Times, 24 June 1965, p. 57. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 123 

a time when only one-fourth of the Early Bird capacity was being used, Comsat had 
acquired a major new customer.'" 

On the last day of 1965, Comsat released its first quarterly report, which listed rev- 
enues of $966,000 from Early Bird operations. Given that these revenues were gathered 
during the first half of the life of an investment in excess of $7 million, those figures were 
quite disappointing. On the other hand. Early Bird was primarily an experiment, and it 
had been an extremely successful experiment. Comsat still had almost $188 million in 
cash out of its initial $200 million capitalization, and it had contracted to provide Atlantic 
and Pacific Ocean service to support the Apollo program."'* 

A Choice Is Made 

Still, no decision on the basic Comsat system had been made. Comsat had pushed for- 
ward with Early Bird (Intelsat I), an experimental operational system, and Intelsat II, the 
special-purpose system launched to provide NASA communications services. When 
Comsat granted the Early Bird geosynchronous contract to Hughes, the communications 
company also awarded two study contracts for medium-altitude-orbit satellites to two 
teams, AT&T-RCA and TRW-ITT. The assumption beneath those study contracts was that 
a medium-altitude experimental system might follow Early Bird some time in 1966. 
However, events were unfolding too swiftly for that kind of experimentation; furthermore, 
experts generally assumed that Telstar and Relay had proven the medium-altitude case. It 
was time to choose. 

Comsat had a variety of system designs from which to choose. Hughes, the builder of 
Early Bird and Intelsat II, as well as Comsat's partner in the venture to supply military 
communications satellite services, proposed an "advanced Early Bird," the geosynchro- 
nous HS-304. AT&T and RCA, the builders of Telstar and Relay, proposed a system of eigh- 
teen satellites in random polar orbits. These two firms held one-third of Comsat's shares, 
and AT&T was the dominant telecommunications company. TRW and ITT proposed a 
controlled, or "phased," system of twelve satellites in similar orbits. In May 1965, Comsat's 
Joseph Charyk announced that the corporation was no longer considering the "random" 

Then, on 17 August 1965, Comsat, on behalf of the Interim Communications Satellite 
Committee, issued a request for proposals for an "advanced satellite" (Intelsat III), the basic 
satellite system design. The request for proposals stipulated that the satellite should be suit- 
able for use in either a geosynchronous orbit or in a phased system at altitudes between 
6,000 and 12,000 miles (9,656 and 19,312 kilometers), although preferably applicable to 
both orbital types. The request for proposals further specified a capacity of 1,000 two-way 

111. Ck)msat Press Release, "Comsat Files Application for FCC Authorization for Proposed Satellites for 
Apollo Service," 30 September 1965; Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to Dr. Joseph V. Charyk, letter, 23 November 1965; 
Robert C. Seamans, Jr., to Dr. Joseph V. Charyk, letter, 30 December 1965, all in NASA History Office. Also see 
"Comsat Seeks to Buy 4 Super Early Birds," New Y(tHi Times, 20 October 1965, p. 1 1; "Comsat Files Apollo Satellite 
Contract," Space Daily, 21 October 1965, p. 262; "First Commercial Satellite to be Placed Over Pacific," New Yoiit 
Times, 4 November 1965, p. 28C; "4 Satellite System Ordered by Comsat," New York Times, 25 November 1965, p. 3. 

112. Comsat Press Release, "Comsat Gives Highlights of Corporation's Progress in an Interim Report to 
Shareholders," 31 December 1965, NASA History Office. 

113. "Comsat Studies," Aviation Week &" Space Technology 80 (6 April 1964): 19; "The Big Four in Comsat 
Competition," Space Daily, 9 April 1965, p. 223; "Early Bird Follow-On," Aviation Week & Space Technology 82 (19 
April 1965): 28; Lyle Denniston, "Comsat Satellite Decision Hints of Earlier Profits," Washington Evening Star, 11 
May 1965, p. 72. 


Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

Figure 21 

The Intelsat V series of geosynchronous communications satellites illustrates the great growth in satellite size that had been 
achieved since the first Intelsat, Early Bird, launched in 1965 (Figure 20). Its greater size (and weight) compared to its pre- 
decessors suggests the larger number and variety offiinctions it could perfirrm — and had to perform — as the number of geo- 
stationary slots began to fill up. (Courtesy of NASA, photo no. 85-H-402) 

voice circuits, a five-year lifetime, a weight of approximately 240 pounds (109 kilograms), 
two repeaters, a directional antenna, and multiple access capability. RCA, TRW, and 
Hughes submitted bids. On 16 December 1965, Comsat announced that it was negotiating 
with TRW for at least six Intelsat III satellites at a cost of approximately $20 million. TRW 
had offered a design capable of operating at both medium and geosynchronous altitudes. 
Comsat still had not decided which orbit to use."^ 

On 29 December 1965, again on behalf of Intelsat, Comsat issued a new request for 
proposals for design studies for its fourth-generation satellites (Intelsat IV). These would 
have a capacity of 6,000 voice circuits (or ten TV channels) and a five-year lifetime, and 
they would weigh less than 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms). These satellites would be geo- 
synchronous. Comsat had finally chosen a system!"'' 

Arthur C. Clarke could be proud, but so could John R. Pierce, Harold A. Rosen, 
Donald D. Williams, Tom Hudspeth, Sid Metzger, Siegfried Reiger, Leonard Jaffe, and the 
hundreds of other engineers who had helped to make commercial satellite communica- 
tions a reality. Political forces may have determined the form of the final system, and 
economic forces had provided much of the impetus, but none of these forces would have 
produced the global communications satellite system without the efforts of the engineers 
and technicians who envisioned, developed, demonstrated, and deployed the "billion 
dollar technology." 

114. Comsat Press Release, "Comsat Asks Manufacturers to Submit proposals on Advanced Satellite for 
Global Communications," 17 August 1965, NASA History Office; "Early Bird Follow-On," Aviation Week & Space 
Technology 83 (23 August 1965): 27; Larry Weekley, "Comsat Negotiates With TRW on Large Satellite Contract," 
Washington Post, 17 December 1965, p. C8; "Comsat is Negotiating for New Satellites With TRW; Users' Charges 
May be Cut," Wall Street Journal, 17 December 1965, p. 24. 

115. John Noble Wilford, "Comsat Seeking Bigger Satellite," Nexu York Times, 30 December 1965, p. 21; 
"Comsat Asks Designs for Big, New Satellite," Washington Evening Star, 30 December 1965, p. A9. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 125 


All of the technologies for communications satellites had existed in some form since 
at least the end of World War II when Arthur C. Clarke wrote his Wireless World article. 
Most, especially the electronics technologies, were relatively mature by 1955 when John R. 
Pierce wrote his article for Jet Propulsion. Missiles, the critical enabling technology, arrived 
on stage on 4 October 1957. In the words of Pierce: 'The necessary spurs to concrete 
action [on communications satellites] came with the successful launching of Sputnik I by 
the USSR.""* 

Equally important, the international telecommunications market was booming in the 
late 1950s and could provide sufficient revenues to underwrite a "billion dollar technolo- 
gy." AT&T was ready to finance a global system out of its own funds. General Electric and 
Lockheed, probably in pursuit of satellite sales, were anxious to form a consortium to 
share the risk. Hughes, GTE, and ITT were anxious to discover a way around AT&T's dom- 
inant position in the telecommunications market. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. government seemed to have many minds during the Eisenhower 
administration. While the president himself seemed to have been wholly in favor of pri- 
vate (AT&T) development and ownership of a global satellite communications system, 
others within the administration and civil service were less enthusiastic. Some felt that 
AT&T was monopolistic; others believed that satellite communications was something gov- 
ernment should do. The Kennedy administration was less committed to private ownership 
and more committed to the potential prestige of a government-sponsored program. The 
Bay of Pigs and the flight of Gagarin in the spring of 1961 finally tilted government away 
from private development of communications satellites, thereby guaranteeing that AT&T 
would not be able to dominate satellite communications. 

Prior to the government takeover of communications satellite development in 1961, 
private industry had undertaken extensive development using its own funds. Hughes had 
built and tested a Syncom prototype. AT&T had built large antennas for the Echo pro- 
gram, had designed Telstar, and had built a few prototype Telstar components. If other 
companies were not spending the millions of dollars invested by Hughes and AT&T, they 
nonetheless were pursuing communications satellite and ground station technology with 
their own resources. 

In spite of the Pentagon's lack of direct involvement in commercial communications 
satellite development, the military market allowed commercial manufacturers to develop 
the expertise that would have allowed them to compete with AT&T in the early days and 
with Hughes later on. General Electric based its attempt to enter the commercial com- 
munications satellite business in the early 1960s on its experience with the military's 
Advent program. Despite this early work. General Electric did not launch a communica- 
tions satellite until 1978. The Japanese Broadcast Satellite built by General Electric was 
similar to Advent in many ways, albeit a far more sophisticated version. General Electric 
later built the DSCS III series for DoD, and after purchasing RCA, the company allowed 
RCA's Astro Division to continue building communications satellites, while General 
Electric's Space Division concentrated on military and Earth-observing markets. RCA, 
after being out of the market from the last Relay (1964) until the launch of Satcom F-1 
(1975), was very successful in the U.S. domestic satellite market. 

116. John R. Pierce, The Beginnings of Satellite Communications (San Francisco: San Francisco Press, 1968), 

126 Creating Systems: United States and Canada 

TRW (through its subsidiary Space Technology Laboratories) entered the communi- 
cations satellite arena as the systems engineers for the Pentagon's Advent and NASA's 
Relay programs. In 1965, the company won the Intelsat III series contract. Hughes was 
favored in that competition, but that firm refused to design a satellite capable of func- 
tioning in either a geosynchronous or a medium-altitude orbit. TRW built additional satel- 
lites for DoD and NASA, but it was never strong in the commercial market. Lockheed, for 
its part, lobbied for a place for aerospace companies within the organizational structure 
that became Comsat. Later, the company attempted to enter the domestic communica- 
tions satellite market as an operator with CML Satellite Corporation (later Satellite 
Business Systems), but not until late 1995 did Lockheed begin building communications 
satellites (for the Iridium low-Earth orbit system). 

The most successful manufacturer of communications satellites has been the Hughes 
Aircraft Company. From early 1959, when the Syncom design began to come together, to 
1961, when NASA gave Hughes a sole-source contract for Syncom development, Hughes 
devised various designs and strategies to enter the communications satellite business as 
manufacturer, operator, or some combination of the two. One strategy involved allowing 
NASA to fund satellite development much as the Atomic Energy Commission had funded 
the development of nuclear power plants. Although only one of many strategies, top man- 
agement supported it, and it is a fair representation of what took place. 

NASA considered the Hughes design faulty, but the agency chose it as the next most 
promising program when the Kennedy administration made available increased commu- 
nications satellite research and development funding in mid-1961. Problems with the mil- 
itary Advent program, which had been in trouble from the start, contributed to the joint 
NASA-DoD decision to proceed with Syncom. Development work on Syncom then led to 
the commissioning of the Advanced Syncom study program and, somewhat later, to the 
Intermediate Syncom study program. Advanced Syncom metamorphosed into NASA's 
Applications Technology Satellite program, while the Intermediate Syncom became the 
NASA-sponsored Intelsat II series. Between 1963 and 1968, Hughes launched thirteen 
communications satellites sponsored directly (Syncoms 1 through 3 and Applications 
Technology Satellites 1 through 5) or indirectiy (Early Bird and four flights of the Intelsat 
II) by NASA. 

If the government — namely. Congress and NASA — had not intervened, an AT&T- 
dominated medium-altitude system would almost certainly have been launched in the 
mid-1960s. The Hughes design eventually would have flown, but when, and with what suc- 
cess, is problematic. Government intervention had two main effects. First, the success of 
the Syncom series, and the NASA commitment to the geosynchronous orbit, made geo- 
synchronous the logical choice for a commercial system. Second, the demonstration of 
the Hughes geosynchronous system gave Hughes an advantage over all of its potential 
competitors. This advantage grew as NASA persuaded Comsat to launch a version of 
Syncom using commercial frequencies (Early Bird) and offered to be an anchor tenant 
for the Intelsat II series. The NASA Applications Technology Satellite kept Hughes at the 
top of its technical form,'" while Intelsat flew the TRW-built Intelsat III series. 

Government intervention had very littie effect on the development of new technolo- 
gy, however. Much of the electronics was developed originally at AT&T's Bell Telephone 
Laboratories and improved later by other companies using internal research and devel- 
opment funds. Hughes developed the basic "spinner" and "gyrostat" technologies using 

117. It should be pointed out that future Hughes systems depended on the "gyrostat" principle devel- 
oped at Hughes by Anthony lorillo and demonstrated on the Army TACSAT. 

Be\dnd the Ionosphere 127 

its own funds. "Three-axis" technology derived not from NASA's sixth Applications 
Technology Satellite, but rather from the Television Infrared Operational Satellite and 
Defense Meteorological Satellite Program by RCA and internal studies carried out by Ford 
and others. Later government programs, notably the Applications Technology Satellite, 
had large effects on the application of geosynchronous technology. Some of these appli- 
cations have never quite made it into practice (such as aeronautical communications and 
tracking), while others (geosynchronous weather satellites, for instance) have become 

There is a place for government involvement in commercial technologies, but myth 
and conventional wisdom must be examined carefully before taxpayer money is commit- 
ted to the achievement of improbable goals. The government market has been a stronger 
force than direct sponsorship of research and development, and it has been stronger than 
government-funded "demonstrations" in the development of commercial technologies. 

Part II: 

Creating the Global, 
Regional, and National Systems 



Chapter 10 

Launching the European 
Telecommunications Satellite Program 

by Arturo Russo 

This chapter is based on research performed as part of the history project of the 
European Space Agency (ESA) in collaboration with John Krige and Lorenza Sebesta. For 
this history project, the author conducted a special study of the launching of the telecom- 
munications satellite program of the European Space Research Organization (ESRO), a 
multinational space organization created in Europe in the early 1960s, whose activities 
ESA took over in 1975. The following is a discussion of the results of that study, which can 
be found in detail in two ESA History Study Reports.' 

The United States dominated the history of satellite communications up to the end 
of the 1970s. Europe was a latecomer. Although the first plans for a joint European 
communications satellite program were elaborated in 1965, many years passed before the 
program was implemented and a European satellite finally was launched. Only at the end 
of 1971, in fact, did the ESRO member states approve a program aimed at developing an 
experimental satellite, and not until 1978 did that satellite, named the Orbiting Test 
Satellite (OTS), leave the launch pad. ESA approved the second phase of the telecom- 
munications program in February 1978, with the aim of developing an operational 
satellite, named the European Communication Satellite (ECS). The first ECS was placed 
in orbit in 1983; three others followed in 1984, 1987, and 1988, respectively, thus 
completing the ECS system. 

By the time the first ECS satellite began operating, however, six Intelsat V satellites 
already were orbiting over the Earth's oceans. Also, domestic communications satellites 
had been under development by private companies in the United States for ten years, and 
some 18 U.S. satellites were in orbit. Meanwhile, Intelsat itself was providing domestic 
services in more than 20 countries; Canada already had launched seven Anik satellites; 
Japan, India, and Indonesia also had acquired independent space communications 
capability; and in Europe, two Franco-German Symphonic satellites were approaching the 
end of their orbital life after several years of good performance. While not all these space- 
craft were as complex and up to date as the ECS, the European system was certainly too 
late to play a major role in the competitive market of space communications. 

The Big Picture 

Why did it take such a long time to develop a European communications satellite pro- 
gram? To answer this question, one must first consider two main aspects. The first is the 
institutional framework in which the program was to be developed. Two multinational 
space organizations existed in Europe during the 1960s and early 1970s: one was devoted 

1. Arturo Russo, The Early Development of the Telecommunications Satellite Program in ESRO (1963-1971), 
ESA HSR-9 (Noordwijk: ESA, May 1993); Arturo Russo, ESRO's Telecommunications Program and the OTS Project 
(1970-1974), ESA HSR-13 (Noordwijk: ESA, February 1994). For the history of ESRO and ELDO, see John Krige 
and Arturo Russo, Europe in Space, 1960-1973, ESA SP-1 172 (Noordwijk: ESA, September 1994). 



Creating Systems: Europe 

to scientific research (ESRO) , and a second, called the European Launcher Development 
Organization (ELDO), whose original mission was to build a rocket called Europa, 
became devoted to launching heavy satellites into near-Earth orbits. The eventual involve- 
ment of ESRO and ELDO in the new field of geostationary communications satellites 
implied a change in their charter and operational program. This change was not easy, 
owing to their different missions, structures, and memberships. Only six European coun- 
tries, plus Australia, were members of ELDO, whose programs were defined essentially at 
the governmental level. Each member state was responsible for a specific task vis-a-vis the 
final goal of building the three-stage Europa vehicle and associated facilities, and each had 
a different level of financial and technical commitment. ESRO, on the other hand, con- 
sisted of ten member states, each of which contributed financially in proportion to their 
gross national product, and the European space science community defined its programs. 

Figure 22 
Approved in 1 971, but not launched until 1 978, the European Space Agency 's experimental satellite, named the Orbiting Test 
Satellite (OTS), shown here, served as the forerunner of the space agency's subsequent communications satellites, known as the 
European Communication Satellite (ECS). (Courtesy of NASA) 

ESRO member states were not equally interested in communications satellites; some 
of them were firmly against the organization's involvement in space applications. ELDO, 
for its part, was hampered by severe technical, financial, and managerial problems that 
resulted in a dramatic series of test launch failures of the Europa rocket. As a conse- 
quence, strong disagreements existed among ELDO member states about the viability of 
a European launcher for geostationary satellites. A collaborative European effort in 

Beyond THE Ionosphere 133 

satellite communications could only be developed within the framework of a compre- 
hensive space policy in which national economic interests and political goals could be sat- 
isfied. The development of such a policy required many years of laborious negotiations. 

The second reason why it took so much time to develop a European communications 
satellite program was the question of users. During the 1960s and 1970s, all European 
countries provided telecommunications services through state-owned operators. These 
state telecommunications administrations had the authority to act as the monopoly 
providers of all services considered at that time as suitable for a European satellite sys- 
tem — namely, international telephony, telex and data transmission, and international 
television distribution within the Eurovision network. 

The state telecommunications administrations, while interested in supporting 
research and development studies of communications satellites, were hardly optimistic 
about the economic prospects of a European system. According to their estimates, in fact, 
the large investments required for procuring and launching satellites, as well as for build- 
ing the necessary ground stations, would be greatly in excess of the savings achieved by 
transferring traffic from the terrestrial cable network to a satellite system. Over the short 
average distances between European centers, and without the problems posed by large 
oceans or vast undeveloped regions, it made no sense to put sophisticated transponders 
as high as 36,000 kilometers in the sky and to build huge antennas on the ground. 

Two Package Deals 

This, then, was the background to the launching of satellite telecommunications in 
Europe. Starting the program required a redefinition of the respective roles of ESRO and 
ELDO within the framework of European space policy. ESRO was the obvious candidate 
to develop communications satellites, based on its experience gained in the field of sci- 
entific research. Indeed, ESRO's executive and technical staff enthusiastically looked for- 
ward to working on satellite communications. A balanced program of both scientific and 
applications satellites implied, in fact, a more efficient use of capital resources, a more 
equitable distribution of industrial contracts among member states, and interesting jobs 
for recruiting the best engineers. ELDO, for its part, would be called on to develop appro- 
priate launch vehicles. 

Following the successful launch and operation of Early Bird (Intelsat I), Comsat's first 
satellite, in March 1965, ELDO member states agreed in July 1966 to fund a program to 
make the Europa rocket capable of launching small satellites into geostationary orbit. 
Later that year, ESRO was charged with studying an experimental satellite for telephony 
and television services in Europe and the Mediterranean. At the same time, the European 
Space Conference came into being as a political forum for discussing a comprehensive 
space policy for Europe. At its second meeting, held in Rome in June 1967, the confer- 
ence set up a special committee to elaborate a long-term program that included scientif- 
ic research, applications, and launchers. 

The transition from the study phase to actual development, however, encountered 
three main difficulties. First, important elements of the European space science commu- 
nity expressed concern about the eventual extension of ESRO into applications satellites. 
Many scientists feared that economic and commercial interests rapidly would eclipse sci- 
entific objectives and that political factors would dictate program priorities, rather than 
the need to investigate scientifically interesting phenomena beyond the atmosphere. 

The second difficulty derived from the diverging visions of the ESRO member states 
about the prospects of satellite communications in Europe. For some, notably France and 
Germany, there was no doubt that Europe should undertake a vigorous effort in this field. 

134 Creating Systems: Europe 

to reduce the perceived technological gap with the United States in this strategically 
important industrial sector. France went so far as to suggest that ESRO should concentrate 
on applications, leaving science to national space programs or multinational projects. 
Other ESRO member states held the opposite view. The British government, for example, 
following the advice of the powerful British Post Office, that country's state telecommu- 
nications administration, opposed any direct involvement in the space segment of satellite 
communications. They believed, in fact, that very few possibilities existed for autonomous 
European action in this field, because of both the strength of the American presence and 
the foreseeable small commercial demand for the kinds of satellites Europe could build 
and operate. For Britain, as well as for some of the smaller member states such as 
Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries, ESRO was doing well in science, and space 
research had to remain its main mission. 

The third difficulty to the transition from the study phase to actual development of a 
European communications satellite system was the question of a launcher — namely, 
whether Europe should develop its own, more powerful launch vehicles or should rely on 
American rockets. Britain and France led the opposite camps. The British stressed the 
high cost and poor performance of the proposed ELDO launchers compared to 
American missiles; the French argued that Europe could not sustain a credible space pol- 
icy without the availability of its own launchers. 

The ambiguity of the U.S. position regarding the provision of their launchers fueled 
the controversy. NASA, in fact, had always been available to provide launch facilities for 
European scientific satellites, but it was by no means clear whether this availability would 
be extended to commercially oriented satellites. Eventually, the U.S. government stated 
that it would reserve the right to refuse launch facilities to European communications 
satellites potentially harmful to Intelsat's commercial interests. Britain claimed that the 
Americans should be trusted for their willingness to offer launch assistance to Europe 
whenever possible. In contrast, the American policy strengthened France's belief that 
Europe needed its own launchers to support a viable communications satellite program. 

Political negotiations and technical studies dragged on for three years until the dis- 
agreement reached a breaking point at the fourth meeting of the European Space 
Conference, held in Brussels on 4 November 1970. Discussions were interrupted after the 
first day, as France, West Germany, and Belgium declared that they were prepared to go 
ahead on their own. There was no point, they said, in trying to define a European space 
policy when the partners' priorities differed so greatly. Britain announced its intention to 
leave ELDO, while France denounced the ESRO Convention. 

After three more years of laborious negotiations, a solution emerged in the form of 
two package deals. These global agreements satisfied the national interests of all the coun- 
tries by abandoning the ideal of a mandatory comprehensive space program. ESRO mem- 
ber states agreed on the first package deal in December 1971. It definitely transformed 
ESRO from an organization solely devoted to scientific research into one mainly involved 
in applications satellite programs, with only a minor fraction of its budget devoted to sci- 
ence. Only the scientific program remained mandatory, while all application programs 
were optional. The second package deal, agreed on in July 1973 during meetings of the 
European Space Conference, established the basic principles on which the new European 
Space Agency would be created two years later. 

The main element of the second package deal was the a la carte program system: each 
ESA member state contributed to the space agency's various programs in proportion to its 
own political, economic, and industrial interests. Through this second package deal, 
France took prime responsibility for the Ariane rocket development program and agreed 
to contribute 63 percent of the cost. Similarly, West Germany took prime responsibility for 

Bevond the Ionosphere 135 

Spacelab, a manned scientific laboratory to be carried in the Space Shuttle cargo bay, and 
Britain took responsibility for a maritime communications satellite. 

The ESA-EUTELSAT Agreement 

It was within the framework established by the first package deal, however, that the 
satellite communications program finally came into being, with the support of eight of 
ESRO's member states (Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, 
and West Germany). It is important to note, however, that the program was divided into 
two different stages, each requiring approval by a qualified majority of the participating 
countries. Only the experimental phase of the program actually was approved; a decision 
on the operational phase was deferred until mid-1975. 

The main reason for staggering the decision-making process was the persistent uncer- 
tainty about the commercial viability of the planned European communications satellite 
system. Unlike Intelsat, which was meeting a real need by improving communications 
between continents, a European satellite system seemed, on the evidence available, to be 
a luxury that Europe did not really need and that the state telecommunications adminis- 
trations could not afford. According to a 1971 study prepared by the European 
Conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations (known by its French 
acronym, CEPT), the estimated operational cost of the system in the 1980s would be far 
in excess of the savings in the terrestrial cable network. Indeed, the CEPT study reported 
that terrestrial savings would not even cover the costs of the ground stations! The state 
telecommunications administrations made it clear that the development of the European 
space industry could not be financed by customers. The governments, in other words, had 
to pay the difference between the actual costs of the satellite system and those costs that 
users normally would have to pay. 

The CEPT report raised great concern. It implied that potential satellite users would 
not use the system unless governments subsidized its operation. In the words of the British 
delegation to the ESRO Council: "Had the project under discussion been a U.K. national 
project it would certainly have been turned down in view of [this] report." In fact, the 
communications program was not a national project, but an international undertaking, as 
well as part of the much wider political context in which the first package deal was being 
discussed. The economic arguments in the CEPT report, however, could not be dismissed, 
so a program strategy was elaborated to allow the participating states to defer the decision 
on the program's operational phase. 

Nonetheless, five years later the economics of European satellite communications 
were far from being settled. A 1976 CEPT study reported an estimated difference of about 
$200 million between the total operational cost of the satellite system and the terrestrial 
alternative. A solution seemed possible. The state telecommunications administrations 
would build and operate the ground stations, while management of the satellite segment 
would be entrusted to a new international organization, called EUTELSAT. ESA member 
states were expected to cover the shortfall in operating costs. 

An agreement was not immediately at hand, however, and took another three years of 
harsh negotiations. The telecommunications administrations held a strong negotiating 
position. Indeed, they had never formally requested the introduction of a satellite system. 
Space policy, not the needs of the users, had motivated the ESA telecommunications pro- 
gram, and its member state governments could not help accepting the users' conditions 
to bring it to completion. So, in May 1979, ESA and EUTELSAT finally reached an agree- 
ment. ESA would contribute as much as 60 percent to EUTELSAT's operating costs. 

136 Creating Systems: Europe 


From the users' point of view, it seems that none of the studies that examined the 
economics of the ECS program were able to demonstrate that its implementation would 
produce economic benefits in excess of the combined cost of the space segment and its 
associated ground station infrastructure. Wider economic arguments and political moti- 
vation provided the ultimate justification for program approval. Among those wider 
aspects are the following: 

1. The assertion of Europe's political and technological independence from the two 
superpowers, which was a particularly key element of the French government's space 

2. The recognition of the aerospace sector as strategically important for the develop- 
ment of advanced industrial technology 

3. The need to qualify European industry for competitive participation in Intelsat 
procurement contracts 

4. The understanding that the OTS and ECS programs were the heart of an evolution- 
ary program leading to other applications fields, such as aeronautical and maritime 
telecommunications, direct television broadcasting, and Earth observation 

5. The search for autonomy of political and cultural expression (as the influential 
French newspaper Le Monde declared in 1967: "The transmission of radio and televi- 
sion programs is one of the most supple and diversified means to assure a presence 
and influence abroad.") 

6. The general drive toward European economic and technical integration 

National governments had different views about the relative importance of these 
aspects, and these differences made launching the European communications satellite 
program such a long and complex process. In particular, the critical issue of launchers vis- 
a-vis the commercial prospects of application satellites was the real stumbling block that 
risked jeopardizing the entire European cooperative space effort. The 1973 package deal 
was a real landmark in the history of Europe in space, and it is fair to conclude by recall- 
ing that it was an Ariane rocket that put the ECS into orbit. 

Chapter 11 

U.S.-European Relations and the 

Decision to Build Ariane, the 

European Launch Vehicle^ 

by Lorenza Sebesta 

Scholars generally recognize, although with different accents, that the U.S. policy on 
the availability of launchers for European communications satellites influenced the 
European decision to design and build its own launchers.^ This decision, officially 
endorsed in July 1973, led to the construction of Ariane, which today, after more than a 
decade of technical reliability and good management, has assured itself the majority of the 
global commercial market. 

What is still unclear, though, are the reasons for the U.S. position on launcher tech- 
nology and facilities, and how those reasons evolved over time — from the first restrictive 
directive. National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 338 of September 1965, 
through the more flexible, and uncertain, position conceived in the second half of the 
1960s, to the return to a more restrictive policy publicly announced by President Nixon in 
October 1972. Shaping this trajectory of changing U.S. policy were five different factors: 

1. The author would like to thank John Krige, head of the ESA Project at the European University 
Institute in Florence, Italy, and John Logsdon, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington 
University in Washington, D.C., for their insightful discussions of the topics addressed in this article. The author 
also thanks Richard Barnes, international space consultant in Washington, D.C., and Andre Lebeau, professor 
at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris, for their invaluable criticism and comments. The form 
and expression of this disputed story are entirely the author's own responsibility. A more extensive analysis of 
the period under examination will be found in a book-length analytical history of U.S.-European space relations 
that the author is currently writing with John Logsdon. The author also would like to acknowledge the extreme- 
ly valuable assistance of the NASA History and Security Offices in facilitating the declassification of documents 
essential to this work. 

2. For example, see John Logsdon, "International Involvement in the U.S. Space Station Program," 
Space Policy, February 1985, p. 18: "[T]he fact that there was resistance in providing that assistance reinforced the 
position of those in Europe (particularly in France) who were arguing for developing an independent European 
space capability." Peter Creola, referring to President Nixon's 9 October 1972 policy statement on the availabil- 
ity of American launchers in "European-U.S. Space Cooperation at the Crossroads," Space Policy, May 1990, p. 99, 
wrote: The effect of this policy on Europe was decisive." See also Arturo Russo, "Launching Europe into Space: 
The Origin of the Ariane Rocket," paper read at the International Astronautical Federation Annual Meeting, 
1995. In "La naissance d'Ariane," p. 85, in Emmanuel Chadeau, ed., L'amlrilion technologique: Naissance d'Ariane 
(Paris: Editions Rive Droite, 1995) , this point of view was expressed much more vigorously by Andre Lebeau (for- 
mer President of CNES, the French space agency): "II ne semble pas exagere de dire que si les Etats-Unis avaient 
vendu sans conditions particulieres les deux lancements de Symphonic, la decision d'engager le programme 
Ariane n'aurait jamais pu etre obtenue. Une intransigeance maladroite, fondee sans doute sur I'idee que 
I'Europe serait de toutes facons incapable de ressusciter son programme de lanceurs, vints a point pour fournir 
un appui decisif aux promoteurs de L3S." 


138 Creating Systems: Europe 

1. Rising concern about the "technological gap" between Europe and the United States 

2. Technological breakthroughs in the field of communications satellites and launchers, 
their organizational consequences, and commercial concerns about these developments 

3. The increasing importance of ballistic missiles as a central feature of NATO military 
strategy, as well as the U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy 

4. A thorough reassessment of European space policy 

5. A worsening of U.S.-European relations coincident with the international economic 
crises of the early 1970s 

This chapter examines the tremendous changes that these five factors wrought, as well as 
how NASA tried to cope with them. 

The "Technological Gap" 

During the late 1950s and early 1960s on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the notion 
of technology as a key to economic growth gained wider and wider acceptance at the high- 
est levels of decision-making. As tariff barriers between the United States and Europe 
began to relax, factors other than tariffs took on added relevance to economic growth and 
international competition. In Europe, the chief body concerned with these questions was 
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).' OECD deci- 
sion-makers, inspired by the works of such economists as Robert Solow and Edward 
Denison, believed that the expansion of the labor force and capital, and their relative 
prices, did not explain economic growth by themselves, but that a "residual factor" 
accounted for a remarkable percentage of economic growth. This residual factor pro- 
gressively came to be identified as knowledge, science, and technology.^ 

A 1965 OECD study pointed out that the United States and the Soviet Union con- 
trolled the bulk of the world's financial and human resources in the field of research and 
technology. In particular, a "technological gap" divided the United States from its western 
aUies. Higher U.S. spending on research and development by the state (mostly the mili- 
tary) in "technology-intensive" sectors seemed to have a direct positive influence not only 
on U.S. economic growth, but on the position of U.S. firms in international markets and 
on the growing number of U.S. firms investing in Europe.^ Europeans viewed a drive 
toward high-tech space applications, as well as electronics, computers, and atomic energy, 
as a possible tactic to solve the technology gap.*" 

3. Jean-Jacques Salomon, Science et Politique (Paris: Seuil, 1970), pp. 51-54. 

4. Edward Denison, Source of Economic Growth in the United States and the Alternatives before Us (New York: 
Committee for Economic Development, 1962). 

5. Christopher Freeman and Anthony Young, The Research and Development Effort in Western Europe, North 
America and the Soviet Union: An Experimental International Comparison of Research Expenditures and Manpower in 1 962 
(Paris: OECD, 1965), p. 70. 

6. Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, Le defi americain (Paris: Denoel, 1967), pp. 119-125; see also David 
Beckler, Assistant to the Director, to Philip Hemily, Science Adviser, U.S. Mission to the OECD, letter, 3 June 
1966, RG 359, National Archives, Washington, DC. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 139 

Europeans faced a dilemma. By allowing American capital into their countries, they 
were consigning their industry to a subsidiary role, at least in the technological sectors. 
The result would be technological dependence, uncertainty over the availability of 
supplies, and loss of freedom in formulating industrial policy. On the other hand, if 
Europeans refused to let Americans invest, they risked ending up double losers by deny- 
ing themselves the capital needed to create jobs, as well as manufactured products.' 

The United States recognized that the technology gap should be treated as "a prob- 
lem with serious political overtones," as Secretary of State Dean Rusk reminded NASA 
Administrator James E. Webb in August 1966, because it was perceived as such by the 
Europeans." The U.S. trend toward space cooperation with Europe during the second half 
of the 1960s had its roots in a willingness by the United States to reduce the political 
impact — and in the long term, the economic effects — of the technology gap. 

As had happened during the U.S.-European "dollar gap," the State Department 
suggested that it was in the interest of the United States to have a strong Europe as a part- 
ner to increase the prospects for U.S. economic growth." This farsighted political vision, 
however, came under attack during the late 1960s, as more and more American econom- 
ic sectors began to face European competition. In Europe, the technology gap and the 
need to catch up with the United States in the space sector served one main political 
purpose: to convince Europeans to turn from science to technologically relevant, com- 
mercially viable endeavors and to cooperate on technologically advanced projects, such as 
Concorde, Airbus, communications satellites, and commercial space launchers. Authors, 
such as French journalist Jean Jacques Servan-Schreiber in his book Le deft americain,^" not 
only suggested this policy, but European space organizations also endorsed it." 

Intelsat and NSAM 338 

The International Telecommunication Satellite Organization (known as Intelsat) was 
set up in August 1964 as a single commercial global satellite system embracing voice, 
telegraph, high-speed data, facsimile, and television services. Early Bird, Intelsat's first 
successful geostationary communications satellite, confirmed the promising commercial 
potential of communications satellites in 1965. 

Under the Intelsat interim agreements, its executive body was the American-based 
Communications Satellite Corporation (Comsat), which, as manager, proposed and 
implemented projects. Investment shares within Intelsat were determined by projections 
of long-distance traffic likely to be carried by satellites. Comsat received an initial 
61-percent share against a 30-percent share for all European countries. Because the 
voting system was based on investment shares, Comsat enjoyed a de facto veto power and 

7. Alfred Grosser, The Western Alliance: European-American Relations since 1945 (London: Macmillan, 
1980), pp. 217-31. 

8. Dean Rusk to James Webb, letter, 29 August 1966, RG 255, 70-A-3458, box 7, NASA History Office, 
Washington, DC. On the need to reduce the political impact of the technological gap, see also the Interim 
Report of the Work of the Space Council's ad hoc Committee on Expanded International Cooperation, enclo- 
sure I, statement concerning political objectives for expanded cooperation in space activities, presented for the 
chairman at the working group meeting on 20 October 1966, RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 5, NASA History Office. 

9. See, for example, the 20 October 1966 statement concerning political objectives for expanded coop- 
eration in space activities, by the State Department, RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 5, NASA History Office. 

10. Servan-Schreiber, Le deft americain, pp. 119-25. 

11. Joachim Muller, "Historical Background and Start of the TELECOM Program," Space 
Communications 8 (1991): 105-40; John Krige and Arturo Russo, Europe in Space, 1960-1973, ESA SP-1172 
(Noordwijk: ESA, September 1994), pp. 55-82. 

140 Creating Systems: Europe 

maintained that power notwithstanding subsequent decreases in its controlling share as 
new countries joined Intelsat.'^ 

Although Comsat's privileged role in Intelsat, according to one analyst, "assured effi- 
ciency and speed" in setting up a global satellite system, and its resources "proved critical 
to attracting interest on the part of developing countries in joining the enterprise,"" it 
also nourished U.S. hegemony in the field, which was rooted in an almost total monopoly 
of the industrial sector. The early entry into the market by such American firms as Bell 
Telephone Laboratories, RCA, and Hughes, combined with their ability to draw on stud- 
ies performed by NASA, gave them an advantage in international competitive bidding on 
Intelsat contracts. One of the big controversial issues within Intelsat was Comsat's willing- 
ness to give priority to in-house research and development over international contracting. 
It was only under pressure from other Intelsat members that the percentage of outside 
contract expenditures progressively rose from 13 percent in 1968 to 50 percent by 1972.'" 
By that time, however, with 52 percent of its capital from the United States, Intelsat spent 
92 percent of its money in the United States.'^ 

The White House was aware of the degree of European dissatisfaction with the U.S. 
monopoly of commercial satellite communications, as well as the danger that, through 
direct assistance from U.S. firms, foreign satellite activity might proliferate the develop- 
ment of competitive systems."* President Johnson, after lengthy negotiations with NASA 
and the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce, approved NSAM 338, "Policy con- 
cerning U.S. assistance in the development of foreign communications satellite capabili- 
ties," in September 1965.'^ 

The aim of NSAM 338 was, in its own words, "to guide government agencies in the dis- 
semination of satellite technology and in the provision of assistance which is consistent 
with overall policies." It stipulated that the. United States should not provide assistance to 
other countries that would significantly encourage the development of their communica- 
tions satellite systems. The United States, moreover, would not entertain any requests by 
foreign nations involving technological assistance on satellites or launchers unless the 
assistance obtained would be used in accordance with Intelsat's rules, and provision of 
such services would be "conditioned upon express (written) assurances." Nonetheless, the 
United States would provide its allies satellite services for their security needs.'* This was 
indeed a very tight political directive that did not leave much room for flexibility in future 
international negotiations. 

12. Richard Colino, 'The INTELSAT System: An Overview," in Joel Alper and Joseph Pelton, eds., The 
INTELSAT Global Satellite System (New York: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1984) , p. 62. See 
also Marcellus Snow, The International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT) (Baden-Baden: Nomos 
Verlagsgesellschaft, 1987), pp. 43-48. 

13. Colino, 'The INTELSAT System," p. 62. 

14. Stephen Levy, "INTELSAT: Technology, Politics and the Transformation of a Regime," International 
Organization 29 (Summer 1975): 661-64. 

15. Address by Professor Hermann Bondi, former Director General of ESRO, on International 
Cooperation in Space, Goddard Dinner at Symposium AAS, 18 March 1971, RG 255, 74-734, box 15, NASA 
History Office; Michael E. Kinsley, Outer Space and Inner Sanctums: Government, Business, and Satellite 
Communication (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976). 

16. Jim D. O'Connell to Jack Valenti, Special Assistant to the President, letter, 7 May 1965, White House 
Confidential Files, TR 105, box 96, Lyndon B.Johnson Library, Austin, TX. 

17. RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 5, NASA History Office; also in WHCF (confidential files) , TR 105, box 96, 
Lyndon B.Johnson Library. 

18. A bilateral U.S.-Britain military satellite agreement was signed in 1967, whereby Britain would build 
an all-British satellite for military communicarions with Australia and the Far East within the framework of a col- 
laborative Skynet military space communications system. Krige and Russo, Europe in Space, p. 62. 

Beyond THE Ionosphere 141 

Military Concerns and Nonproliferation Policy 

The Atlantic Alliance, created in 1949, had two main objectives: social stability and 
military security. To fulfill both objectives, this alliance always had relied on America's 
arsenal of nuclear weapons. The United States postponed sharing the military burden 
with Europe by emphasizing the deterrent power of its nuclear arsenal." This position 
implied that the United States maintained control over the ultimate decision to use 
nuclear arms. 

The launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik in October 1957 made the cost of this 
arrangement seem very high to Europeans. U.S. territory now was open to Soviet aggres- 
sion by intercontinental ballistic missiles. Europeans wondered: Would the United States 
be willing to risk an attack against their own territory for the sake of Europe? Sputnik epit- 
omized the double nature of missiles: the same launcher that had put a scientific satellite 
in orbit could become, with some modifications, the carrier of a nuclear warhead. The 
United States now was caught in an inescapable nuclear dilemma: antagonizing its allies 
was dangerous, because it fostered the development of independent nuclear forces; 
however, the U.S. Constitution made the president the head of the armed forces and, 
therefore, the individual with the last say on the use of nuclear weapons, so sharing that 
decision with other states did not seem to be authorized by the Constitution. 

The dilemma was quite real, for the French had requested information on an inter- 
mediate nuclear ballistic missile system from the United States. Two weeks after Sputnik, 
the National Security Council directed the Eisenhower administration to discourage the 
production of nuclear weapons outside the nuclear "club" and, specifically, to "persuade 
France not to undertake independent production of such weapons."^" The National 
Security Council was referring to General Charles de Gaulle's /orc^ de frappe dind its strate- 
gy tout azimut. Upon his return to power in June 1958, de Gaulle had accelerated studies 
of both launchers and nuclear warheads. The first French atomic bomb (tested in 1960) 
was further proof of this determination.^' 

Between 1962 and 1965, the United States devised a hybrid formula, the Multilateral 
Force (MLF), to appease European requests for nuclear technology and to satisfy consti- 
tutional law and the Atlantic Alliance, but the MLF proved to be a slow, inexorable fail- 
ure.^^ By the mid-1960s, nuclear issues were at the core of NATO difficulties. The United 

19. Thomas H. Etzold, The End of the Beginning . . . NATO's Adoption of Nuclear Strategy," in Olau 
Riste, ed., Western Security: The Formative Years (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), p. 291. 

20. National Security Council 5721/1, "U.S. Policy on France," 19 October 1957, in U.S. State 
Department, Foreign Relations of the United States 1955-57 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 
1992), Vol. XXVII, Western Europe and Canada, pp. 189, 192. For the U.S.-French rift on nuclear issues, see 
McGeorge Bundy, Dan^ and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years (New York: Random House, 
1988), pp. 472-87. More generally, see Pascaline Winand, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and the United Slates of Europe 
(Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993), passim. 

21. For the force defrappeznd the organizational changes it implied, see Roger Rhenter, "Implications 
de la politique de defense dans les domaines de I'industrie aeronautique et de I'espace," in Institut Charles de 
Gaulle, De Gaulle et son siecle. Vol. 4, Lm. securite et I'independance de la France (Paris: La Documentation Franf aise- 
Plon, 1992), pp. 160-63. For an updated review of French nuclear policy, Maurice Vaisse, ed., LaFranceet t'atome 
(Brussels: Bruylant, 1994). 

22. The MLF was intended to be a coordinated multinational deterrent nuclear force consisting of a 
fleet of submarines carrying Polaris missiles manned by crews of a minimum of three nationalities. Decision- 
making would be shared, but not the ultimate responsibility for the use of the warheads, which was in U.S. hands. 
See George Ball, The Discipline of Power (Boston: Little, Brown, 1968), especially the chapter tided "The 
Unflnished Business of Nuclear Management." 

142 Creating Systems: Europe 

States strongly resented France's unwillingness to comply with Atlantic Alliance strategy 
and its stated wish to build up its own nuclear arsenal. The French nuclear strategy, how- 
ever, was linked to its economic policy. "In politics as in strategy as in economics," de 
Gaulle asserted in a much publicized January 1963 speech that referred to U.S. policy, 
"monopoly quite naturally appears to him who holds it as the best possible system."^' In 
fact, de Gaulle's attacks against the dollar gold standard, launched in February 1965, 
when France presented its dollars for conversion into gold, were followed in 1966 by 
France's withdrawal from NATO and, in 1967, by that country's first nuclear ballistic 
missile tests. 

The meaning of French behavior acquired a much more disturbing twist in the con- 
text of the new global nonproliferation policy inaugurated by the United States during the 
1960s. After the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, the United States and the Soviet 
Union began to ease the international tensions that had reached a climax during that 
long week. The two superpowers agreed on, and formalized, common codes of conduct 
in the nuclear arena, including limitations on the testing and production of nuclear 
devices to prevent their proliferation. The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in 
Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water (better known as the Test Ban Treaty) and 
the hot-line agreements were signed in 1963, while the nonproliferation treaty was signed 
in 1968 only after protracted negotiations. 

These international developments paralleled domestically the adoption of NSAM 294, 
"U.S. Nuclear and Strategic Delivery System Assistance to France," on the nonprolifera- 
tion of "strategic delivery technology," including nuclear bombs and launchers.^'' 
Enforcement of this policy was assigned to Munitions Control at the State Department — 
the agency also responsible for controlling technological information to be sold abroad. 
In the context of this memorandum, then, the French independent course was interpret- 
ed not only as a refusal of American patronage, but, more dangerously, as an attempt to 
disrupt the architecture of American nonproliferation policy. ^^ 

Europe's Changing Space Policy 

After Sputnik, and in parallel with the process that led to NASA's creation in 1958, 
European scientists began to call for the creation of a collaborative space organization. As 
a result, an agreement establishing the European Space Research Organization (ESRO) 
was signed in 1962, but it did not enter into force until 1964. ESRO was born out of many 
interest, including the scientists' desire to conduct specifically ambitious experiments that 
natural resources alone would not have permitted, as well as the wish of some scientists to 
be independent of national military authorities. The establishment of ESRO also benefit- 
ed from the spirit of European unity following the Treaty of Rome that created the 
Common Market.^'* The ESRO agreement glossed over references to technological and 

23. "Excerpts from remarks by de Gaulle, news conference, HJanuary 1963," New York Times, 15 January 
1963, p. 2. See also Bundy, Danger and Survival, p. 492. 

24. NSAM 294, 20 April 1964, NSC Records, National Archives. Good indirect information on the con- 
tent of the directive are to be foimd in James Webb, NASA Administrator, to Robert McNamara, Secretary of 
Defense, letter, 28 April 1966, James Webb, box 2, Lyndon B.Johnson Library. 

25. Frank Costigliola, France and the U.S.: The Cold Alliance since World War II (New York: Twayne's 
International History Series, 1992), p. 134. 

26. Krige and Russo, Europe in Space. Unless otherwise stated, all information relating to ESRO and 
ELDO is drawn from this work. 

Beyond THE Ionosphere 143 

industrial concerns. The relevance of space technology to future economic development 
was not indisputable at the time, notwithstanding the initial propagandistic effort of some 
aerospace firms; moreover, industrial policy was still perceived as a prerogative of only 
national governments. 

Starting in 1960, political negotiations on the building of a European satellite launch- 
er were under way, leading to the 1964 ratification of an agreement to establish the 
European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO). ELDO was born out of Britain's 
willingness to "Europeanize" and convert to civilian use a military missile already in 
development, the Blue Streak. The mission of this launcher always had lurked in the back- 
ground of ELDO, whose first concern was to acquire (or in the case of Britain to main- 
tain) a technical expertise in a high-technology area at a bearable price. 

The total spent by Europe on space in the mid-1960s was but a small fraction of the 
amount of money spent by the United States.^' Total U.S. domination of the satellite field 
(communications, meteorology, and navigation) seemed to loom ahead in the 1970s. To 
compete with the United States, Europe needed to shift its emphasis from science to com- 
mercial and technological endeavors. The United States had provided launchers for 
national and European scientific satellites for free or at low costs. Why, then, should 
Europe follow the more costly and risky track of applications satellites and powerful 
launchers? That was the heart of the debate. 

The British labor government (1964-1970) was the most skeptical of the European 
states. As early as 1966, Britain made it clear that, as far as launchers were concerned, it 
favored reliance on the United States. The British opined that Europa 1, ELDO's first 
launcher, would be "obsolescent and uncompetitive in cost and performance with launch- 
ers produced by the U.S." by the end of the decade.^^ This debate disrupted ELDO 
negotiations in 1966 and again in 1968, and it formed the base for endless quarrels into 
the 1970s. British Minister of Technology Anthony Wedgwood-Benn summed up its 
essence when he stated that he was "very much alarmed at the thought that because a 
thing is European, and because a thing is international, this somehow excuses us from 
applying economic criteria."^* 

Britain eventually did stay in ELDO, which moved closer to the French position of 
independence from the United States. In July 1966, ELDO approved an upgrading of the 
European launcher; Europa II would be capable of putting into geosynchronous orbit a 
170-kilogram satellite, compared to 140 kilograms with a Thor-Delta launcher.^" In addi- 
tion, on the insistence of the French, ELDO transferred its launch site from Woomera, 
Australia, to Kourou, French Guiana, where the French space agency was building its own 
launch complex." 

Still, no firm decision on the building of a European communications satellite was 
reached until December 1971. Among the hurdles to overcome in reaching that decision 
was the unclear legal framework for satellite operations — the Intelsat interim agreements 
were under renegotiation between 1969 and 1971 — as well as the availability of launchers.'^ 

27. Muller, "TELECOM Program," pp. 379-81. 

28. Quoted in Krige and Russo, Europe in Space, pp. 74-75. 

29. Cited in John Krige, "Britain and European Space Policy in the 1960s and Early 1970s," Science and 
Technology Policy 5(2) ( 1992): 15. European cost estimations at that time made it clear that ELDO launchers were 
expected to be twice as expensive as their American counterparts. Muller, "TELECOM Program," p. 115. 

30. Jean-Pierre Causse, "Les lanceurs europeens avant Ariane," in Chadeau, ed., L'ambition technologique, 
p. 24. 

31. Krige and Russo, Europe in Space, pp. 74-76. 

32. Arturo Russo, ESRO's Telecommunications Programme and the OTS Project (1970-1974), ESA HSR-13 
(Noordwijk: ESA, February 1994), passim. 


Creating Systems: Europe 

Both the Intelsat negotiations and the debate over the availability of launchers were inter- 
related, and Europe hoped to improve its bargaining position by building up a credible 
industrial and technical competence — and consequently a political presence — in the field 
of applications satellites. 

That thinking was partly behind the Franco-German Symphonic program. This bina- 
tional project combined two national experimental communications satellites (called 
Saros 2 and Olympia) within a single spacecraft, whose launch was originally scheduled 
for 1970.''' Symphonic, its supporters hoped, would put German and French industry in a 
preferred position when Europe built a communications satellite, but it also would be an 
asset during Intelsat renegotiations — not to mention a test of U.S. willingness to launch 
European commercial satellites.^'' 

Figure 23 

The Symphonie satellite ivas a binational satellite communications project sponsored by France and Germany. The prefect was 
a move to place the two countries in a favored position luhen Europe began to build communications satellites. NASA agreed 
to launch Symphonie with the strict understanding that it was to be only an experimental satellite. (Courtesy of NASA, 
photo no. 74-H0635) 

33. Communique de presse, Symphonie, 28 April 1967, cote 81/244, article 188, liasse 517; confiden- 
tial note on the revision of French space policy on European launchers, no date (post-1966), no author (CNES 
or Minister of Foreign Affairs), cote 82/254, article 25, liasse 80, Archives Nationales, Fontainbleau. 

34. Nicholas G. Golovin to Donald Hornig, memorandum on trip to Europe, meeting with Bignier, 25 
October 1967, RG 359, box 658, National Archives; White House to the President, memorandum, 8 February 
1967, White House Confidential Files, TR 105, box 96, Lyndon B.Johnson Library. 

Bevdnd the Ionosphere 145 

Increased U.S. -European Cooperation? 

During the mid-1960s, when space expenditures reached their historic peak, the 
United States sought to increase cooperation with Europe in space. The new interest in 
the use of space cooperation as a means toward achieving political objectives abroad put 
NASA in a very delicate situation. Namely, the danger was that cooperative projects would 
not always reinforce NASA's programmatic needs. In such instances, a NASA working 
group on increasing international cooperation in space reported that the State 
Department and the White House ought to justify such projects, "since NASA cannot itself 
justify a relaxation of its posture and programmatic needs. "''^ 

Cooperation in space between the United States and Europe had been developing 
since the late 1950s along the restrictive lines established by Arnold Frutkin, director of 
NASA international affairs starting in September 1959. The United States offered free 
launch services and space aboard spacecraft for European scientific experiments; joint 
undertakings were "purely" scientific. The partners considered this cooperative arrange- 
ment highly beneficial, and it gave rise to few occasions of rancor.'* 

Late in 1965, NASA proposed a new project to its European space partners. Known as 
the Advanced Cooperation Project, the proposal remained within the political directives 
set up by NSAM 338 (September 1965), yet raised the level of transatlantic cooperation in 
space. As part of the Advanced Cooperation Project, Europe would be responsible for 
developing a technologically advanced spacecraft for either a solar or Jupiter mission, and 
the United States would provide launch, tracking, and data collection services. 

As a French official expressed to Charles Bohlen, the U.S. ambassador in France, the 
offer seemed to be but "a bone to nibble on."" Moreover, other critics perceived the 
Advanced Cooperation Project not as fostering space development, but as diverting 
Europe from the economic benefits to be derived from developing communications satel- 
lites.*** The proposal failed to galvanize the European scientific community, and in the 
summer of 1966, ESRO officially declined it. 

The United States, still wishing to increase international cooperation in space, trans- 
formed the Advanced Cooperation Project into a bilateral venture with West Germany 
known as Helios.'' Cooperation with West Germany had become more critical to U.S. 
diplomatic policy, particularly following France's withdrawal from NATO,* and as West 
Germany came to be viewed as the "most faithful ally" of the United States in Europe.*' 

35. Meeting of the Working Group on Expanded International Cooperation in Space Activities, 
"Summary Notes," 22 September 1966, RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 5, NASA History Office. 

36. Arnold Frutkin, International Cooperation in Space (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965); Homer 
Newell, Beyond the Atmosphere: The Early Years of Space Science (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4211, 1980); John 
Logsdon, "U.S.-European Cooperation in Space Science: A 25-Year Perspective," Sa>nc^ 223 (6 January 1984): 
11-16; Sir Harrie S.W. Massey and Malcolm Owen Robins, History of British Space Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1986); Lorenza Sebesta, U.S.-European Cooperation in Space during the Sixties, ESA HSR-14 
(Noordwijk: ESA, 1994). 

37. Charles Bohlen to Department of State, telegram, 8 March 1966, RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 5, NASA 
History Office. 

38. See, for instance, the report of the Western European Union cited in "Europe Accuses U.S. on 
Space Plans," New Yorfc Times, 8 June 1966, p. 4. 

39. Alexander Hocker to James Webb, letter, 3 August 1966, RG 255, 70-A-3458, box 7, NASA History 

40. Dean Rusk to James Webb, letter, 29 August 1966, RG 255, 70-A-3458, box 7, folder 1; Daniel 
Margolis to Donald Hornig, memorandum, 13 December 1968, NAW, RG 359, box 755, NASA History Office. 

41. Costigliola, France and the U.S., p. 148. 

146 Creating Systems: Europe 

For its part, West Germany, through its participation in U.S. space efforts, was inter- 
ested in acquiring a wide range of military-related technology that strictures dating from 
the end of World War II prohibited that country from producing. During the early 1960s, 
moreover. West Germany purchased military goods and services from the United States to 
offset the costs of stationing American occupational troops in that country. Now, the West 
German government hoped to substitute for at least part of those payments the cost of 
procuring and licensing high-tech American equipment to establish a pattern of techni- 
cal cooperation and to reestablish German technical capabilities.''^ 

Meanwhile, the United States continued to reconcile space cooperation with high- 
level deliberation. In March 1966, a special ad hoc committee of the National Aeronautics 
and Space Council, chaired by Deputy Under Secretary of State U. Alexis Johnson, was set 
up to advise President Johnson on the topic. The United States favored the work of ELDO, 
because its rocket programs tended to serve peaceful uses, were subject to international 
control, and absorbed personnel and financial resources that otherwise might be divert- 
ed into purely national programs that tended to concentrate on military systems. The 
dissolution of ELDO, the United States feared, might strengthen national military rocket 
programs and lead to a proliferation of launchers.^' At the same time, argued Vice 
President Hubert H. Humphrey and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, any 
increased emphasis on the peaceful uses of space technology would go hand in hand with 
a decrease in European programs of independent military applications. The aim of U.S. 
policy, according to McNamara, should be to stimulate "foreign involvement in space 
technology as a means of diverting energies from the development of nuclear systems."''^ 
Moreover, in the case of France, encouragement to proceed with upper-stage liquid 
hydrogen-oxygen systems might divert resources from their force de frappe progrdun, which 
used solid fuel propulsion technology."^ 

In addition to the dissolution of ELDO, the United States also was distressed over col- 
laboration among ELDO, ESRO, and the European Telecommunications Satellite 
Committee (known by its French acronym GETS), because such collaboration could be a 
prelude to the creation of a combined competitive global space power. As Frutkin wrote 
in May 1966: "The greatest danger now is that the crises in space affairs in Europe will lead 
to a total redirection of European space effort in competition with the United States." If 
ELDO, ESRO, and GETS together established their ovm system of communications satel- 
lites, Europe would challenge and seriously disrupt Intelsat, which was dominated by the 
United States. "It seems very important," Frutkin declared, "in view of this possibility and 
in view of the difficult 1969 Intelsat renegotiation that everything be done to give the 
Europeans as little cause of concern as necessary regarding U.S. motivafion. Certainly, no 
dog-in-manger attitude ought to be continued."** NASA Administrator James Webb added 
to Frutkin's concern. Once the Europeans completed construction of the Kourou launch 
complex, "the European nations could, if they wish," Webb opined, "be in a position to 

42. Margolis to Hornig, memorandum, 13 December 1968. 

43. Committee on Expanded International Cooperation in Space Activities, "Cooperadon involving 
launchers and launching technology," first meedng, 17 May 1966, RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 5; Arnold Frutkin to 
James Webb, 'Visit of Sir Solly Zuckerman," memorandum, 5 May 1966, RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 7, NASA History 

44. Vice President Hubert Humphrey to Donald Hornig, memorandum, 6 April 1966, NAW, RG 359, 
box 566; James Webb to Robert McNamara, letter, 28 April 1966, James Webb, box 2, Lyndon B.Johnson Library 

45. Webb to McNamara, letter, 28 April 1966; Michel Debre, Gouverner: Memoires, 1958-1962 (Paris: 
Albin Michel, 1988), p. 375. 

46. Arnold Frutkin to James Webb, memorandum, II May 1966, RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 8, NASA 
History Office. 

Bevond the Ionosphere 147 

place in synchronous orbit an operable comsat spacecraft."*' If the United States could not 
stop the creation of a European regional communications satellite system, the new Intelsat 
organization, then under renegotiation, might provide a framework in which to control 
the European system/* 

The Limits of American Launcher Policy 

American policy was caught in a dilemma. As NASA reported to the State 
Department, the United States was "virtually at the limits of proposals for cooperation which 
[could] be made uiith any hope of success, unless the U.S. should relax restrictions in the two 
areas of prime interest, vehicle technology and experimentation with comsat."''^ Those 
areas of interest fell under NSAMs 294 and 338, which NASA Administrator James Webb 
perceived were a "political irritant" to the Europeans and were "exacerbating existing 
political strains," especially with the French.*" Revising NSAM 338 might improve 
U.S.-European relations, discourage Europeans from following a potentially competitive 
independent route, and even help the U.S. position in Intelsat negotiations scheduled to 
begin in 1969.*' 

The underlying idea was to liberalize U.S. policy on launching communications satel- 
lites. NSAM 338 had defined that policy in very strict terms and had left to the bodies and 
agencies of the newly formed Intelsat the responsibility to entangle the development of 
competitive international telecommunications satellites through a web of legal rules.*^ 
This idea was first embodied in a National Security Council directive approved as NSAM 
354 by the president in July 1966 under the title "U.S. Cooperation with the European 
Launcher Organization (ELDO)."*' The document called for positive support of ELDO 
and the provision of launch vehicles, components, and technology under precise condi- 
tions. For example, the technology could be used to improve the capability of communi- 
cations satellites only in accordance with Intelsat agreements or to participate as an ally in 
the U.S. military satellite system. The technology was not to be used in nuclear missile 
systems nor to be passed on to other countries.'* 

In August 1966, in applying NSAM 354, the United States offered to support ELDO's 
development of a European launch vehicle. That support entailed the procurement of 
U.S. flight hardware, as well as assistance (such as technical information and personnel) 
in the design of subsequent ELDO projects using liquid-propellant upper stages. The 

47. James Webb to James O'Connell, Special Assistant to the President for Telecommunications, letter, 
3 October 1966, RG 255, 70-A-3458, box 7, NASA History Office. 

48. Working Group of International Cooperation Subcommittee of the National Aeronautics and Space 
Council, "Summary Minutes," 19 May 1966. RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 5, NASA History Office. 

49. Emphasis in text. NASA to Department of State, "International Projects in Prospect," 19 May 1966, 
RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 5, NASA History Office. 

50. Webb to O'Connell, letter, 3 October 1966. 

51. No author, "Memorandum on Communications Satellite Technology," no date, 70-A-3458; 
Memorandum, Arnold Frutkin to Willis Shapley, 16June 1966, 69-A-5089; both in box 7, RG 255, NASA History 

52. Working Group on International Cooperation, "Summary Minutes," 19 May 1966. 

53. Arnold Frutkin to James Webb, "Space Council Task Group on Assistance to ELDO," supplementary 
notes on possible U.S. assistance to ELDO, memorandum, 14 June 1966, 70-A-3458, box 7; Third Meeting of the 
Working Group (to be held on 7 July 1966), 29 June 1966, and Fourth Meeting of the Working Group (to be 
held on 9 August 1966), 4 August 1966, 69-A-5089, box 5; all in RG 255, NASA History Office. 

54. Frutkin to Webb, "Space Council Task Group on Assistance to ELDO," memorandum, 14June 1966; 
U.S. Cooperation with the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO), 29 July 1966, RG 273, 
NSAM 354, National Archives. 

148 Creating Systems: Europe 

United States also suggested the joint use of a high-energy upper stage to be developed in 
Europe, the sale of Scout, Thor, and Atlas rockets to the Europeans, and the provision for 
a fee for launch services for scientific and applications satellite projects.^-' 

Formal discussions begun in September 1966 focused, at the request of ELDO, on 
general aspects of management (such as establishing adequate task definition, contractor 
selection, and contract supervision) and on certain specific technical problems relating to 
the injection of a satellite into geostationary orbit (namely, the ELDO-PAS program).*® 
Subsequently, an ELDO team visited NASA Headquarters and the Goddard Space Flight 
Center, and various technical problems relating to ELDO-PAS were discussed." 
Nonetheless, NASA eluded ELDO requests for technical comments on studies of the high- 
energy upper stages.*** 

In July 1967, the revision of NSAM 338, which had set strict limits on the supplying of 
launches for communications satellites to foreign entities, received President Johnson's 
endorsement.*" Although substantial changes from the foregoing document were not 
readily noticeable, the change in perspective was evident from the start. Whereas the orig- 
inal text opened by declaring that "it is the policy of the United States to support devel- 
opment of a single global commercial communication satellite system to provide common 
carrier and public service communications," the revised policy declaration read: 'The 
United States is committed to the encouragement of international cooperation in the 
exploration and use of outer space." In addition, the rules for transferring technology 
were slightly liberalized by the substitution of a more flexible expression, namely: 

[WJithin the limits fixed by national security considerations and other pertinent 
regulations, the United States may decline to make available space technology to other 
nations when (a) such technology is critical to the development of a communication satel- 
lite capability and (b) it has been determined that this technology will be used in a manner 
inconsistent with the concept of and commitments to the continuing development of a sin- 
gle global commercial communications satellite system as embodied in the 1964 agreement.^ 

55. "Possibilities and Problems of Future U.S.-European Cooperation in the Space Field," remarks by 
Trevanion H.E. Nesbitt, Deputy Director, Office of Space and Environmental Science Affairs, Department of 
State, at the Meeting of EUROSPACE, Munich, Germany, 21 June 1968, Annex to ELDO/CM(July 68)WP/2, 
Historical Archives, European University Institute, Florence, Italy. Atlas, already phased out as a U.S. military 
vehicle, had a minimum of security difficulties (it used an old radio guidance system, for example), and it com- 
pared favorably against Blue Streak as a potential first stage of the European launcher. Frutkin to Webb, Space 
Council Task Group on Assistance to ELDO, memorandum, 14 June 1966. 

56. Interim Response by ELDO to US Offer of Technical Assistance, by Clotaire Wood, NASA European 
Representative, 5 December 1966, RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 7; W.H. Stephens, Secretariat ELDO, to C. Wood, 
NASA Representative, U.S. Embassy, letter, 23 January 1967, RG 255, 70-A-3485, box 8, NASA History Office. 

57. The ELDO team consisted of WJ. Mellors, ELDO, Assistant Technical Director, ELDO-PAS Project; 
T.W. Wood, ELDO, Head, PAS Vehicle Section; J.C. Poggi, Societe pour I'Etude et la Realisation d'Engins 
Balistiques (SEREB), Chief Engineer, PAS Project; and M. Lauroua, SEREB, Head, PAS Vehicle Coordinated 
Department. Richard Barnes, Memorandum for the Record, 10 February 1967; Stephens to Arnold Frutkin, let- 
ter, with attached: "Annex on Questions on Injection of Spin Stabilized Satellites into Geostationary Orbits," 24 
March 1967; W.J. Mellors to Gilbert Ousley, Technology Directorate, Goddard Space Flight Center, letter, 22 May 
1967, RG 255, 70-A-3485, box 8, NASA History Office. 

58. "ELDO-NASA relations, 1967, major events," attached to memorandum, Lloyd Jones to George 
Morris, 7 March 1968, RG 255, 72-A-3153, box 6, NASA History Office. 

59. NSAM 338 revised, policy concerning U.S. assistance in the development of foreign communica- 
tions satellite capabilities, 12 July 1967, National Security Archives, Washington, DC. 

60. Foreign use of the national defense communications satellite system continued to be contemplated 
along the lines of the old text. A bilateral agreement with Britain along these lines was signed in 1967, whereby 
Britain would build an all-British satellite for military communications with Australia and the Far East within the 
framework of a collaborative Skynet military space communications system. Krige and Russo, Europe in Space, p. 62. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 149 

The principal new assumption of the document was the inevitable development of 
new regional communications systems. If the United States did not encourage those 
regional systems to join Intelsat, then, predicted Edward C. Welsh of the National 
Aeronautics and Space Council, "I would expect that the international system will be the 
one which breaks up and fails."®' The goal of U.S. policy, therefore, was to attract region- 
al systems into the Intelsat framework where they could be controlled,"^ but, as a NASA 
paper on the dissemination of technology overseas cautioned, 'The health of Intelsat is 
assured in part by the feeling of the major Intelsat partners that they are indeed partners 
and not puppets in an organization dominated by the U.S."*^^ If the United States were too 
stringent in imposing technology export controls, those nations might conclude that the 
United States did not intend to allow them to compete, and they might work together to 
create a competing satellite system, or even to defeat upcoming Intelsat negotiations. 

The willingness of the United States to liberalize its space technology policy was put 
to a test in 1968, when the directors of the Franco-German Symphonic communications 
satellite program asked NASA to provide launch vehicles and service for two satellites. 
After consuldng with the Department of State, NASA replied in October 1968 that it 
would launch the satellites for a fee, "if we could arrive at a mutual understanding of the 
experimental character of the project."*^ Also, regarding the eventual future use of the 
satellite system, the Europeans were asked to comply with Intelsat's rules. NASA's reply, 
carefully conceived within the logic of NSAM 338, was interpreted by Symphonie directors 
as a U.S. refusal to launch European communications satellites should they advance from 
an "experimental" to an operational phase."'' Therefore, they endorsed the use of a 
European launcher, even if this prospect seemed less certain and more expensive. 

The U.S. Space Program and the Permanent 
Intelsat Agreements 

The year 1969 included the confluence of the U.S. space program and Intelsat nego- 
tiations. In the spring of 1969, Intelsat renegotiations opened, and in July, the Apollo 11 
astronauts became the first humans on the Moon. In addition, U.S. offers to entice 
Europeans into participating in post-Apollo space programs were not entirely distinct 
from the Intelsat negotiations. 

In October 1969, NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine offered Europeans the 
opportunity to participate in the development and use of an ambitious set of space 
transportation and exploration projects — namely, a space station module, a reusable 
transportation system (the Space Shuttle), a tug to transfer payloads from the Shuttle to 
geosynchronous orbit, and a nuclear-powered rocket (NERVA) for long-distance inter- 
planetary travel. If Europe could be convinced to abandon its "trouble-plagued and 

61. Memorandum for the File, "Edward C. Welsh on Questions regarding Communications Satellite 
Policy." 25 November 1966, RG 255, 69-A-5089, box 5, NASA History Office. 

62. Working Group of International Cooperation Subcommittee of the National Aeronautics and Space 
Council, "Summary Minutes," 19 May 1966. 

63. NASA memorandum, "Control of Foreign Dissemination of Technology," 25 April 1966, RG 255, 
69-A-5089, box 5, NASA History Office. 

64. The citation comes from a retrospective summary of U.S. policy on launcher availability included in 
NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine to Senator Clinton Anderson, letter, 9 September 1970, box 26, Paine 
Papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Washington, DC; Arnold Frutkin, interview with John 
Logsdon and Lorenza Sebesta, 8 November 1993, Washington, DC. 

65. Robert Aubiniere, interview with Lorenza Sebesta, 12 December 1991, Paris. 

150 Creating Systems: Europe 

obsolescent" launcher program, Paine had argued in the summer, "European funds 
would be freed for more constructive cooperative purposes."** 

However, as European negotiators explained during their first meeting to discuss 
Paine's offer held in September 1970, because Europe only had limited means, it would 
be unable to finance simultaneously the development of its own launchers (for commu- 
nications and other applications satellites) and significant participation in the post-Apollo 
programs. Therefore, European entry into any such cooperative venture would have to be 
complemented by the granting of launchers on a commercial basis and without political 
conditions by the United States. The United States replied that, if Europe contributed 
substantially to post-Apollo programs, the Americans would provide launch services to 
Europe on a reimbursable basis "for any peaceful purpose consistent with existing inter- 
national agreements." Furthermore, at the request of the European representatives, the 
American delegates clarified that the phrase "any peaceful purpose" could include com- 
mercial ventures capable of competing with American interests." 

The United States made it clear, moreover, that the Europeans would be required to 
contribute at least 10 percent of the overall development costs of the Space Shuttle. Those 
costs then were projected as being $10 billion over ten years; the European share would 
have been $1 billion spread out over the same period. Broadly speaking, Theodore 
Lefevre (who was the president of the European Space Conference and the chief 
European negotiator) pointed out, that amount would correspond to expenditures on the 
development of the European launcher.'** 

At the same time as these NASA program talks were taking place, Intelsat negotiations 
were under way. The Europeans were striving to obtain a more equitable partnership with- 
in the system, and they succeeded in obtaining some good results.*" Among the issues 
under discussion was the establishment of regional satellite systems outside the jurisdic- 
tion of the Intelsat network. The United States initially argued against regional satellites, 
but the Intelsat Definitive Agreements of 1971 opened the way for them to meet 
members' needs for international public communications services. In each case, though, 
members were to ensure the technical compatibility of the regional satellite with the 
Intelsat network and to avoid significant economic harm to the global system. 
Furthermore, Intelsat was not permitted to enforce sanctions against violators, nor were 
its recommendations considered binding, as the United States originally had demanded. 
This clause was all the more relevant, because the Definitive Agreements deprived 
Comsat, the American signatory, of the veto power it had enjoyed under the Interim 

These significant American concessions, however, were offset by a modification of the 
interpretation of the voting formula in Article XFV (paragraph d) . Drafted in ambiguous 

66. Thomas O. Paine to the President, letter, 22 August 1969, box 23, Paine Papers, Manuscript 
Division, Library of Congress. 

67. Statement by Piers van Eesbeek relating to the Washington talks (16-17 September 1970) between 
the European Space Conference (ESC) delegation and ESC authorities, 8 October 1970, CSE/CS (70) 23, 
Historical Archives, European University Institute. 

68. Declaration by Theodore Lefevre, 4 November 1970, CSE/CM (November 70) PV/1, Annex 1, 
Historical Archives, European University Institute. Some disagreement seemed to exist on this point. Some 
observers believed that the cost of European pardcipation in NASA post-Apollo programs would be twice the 
cost of developing the European launcher. 

69. Levy, "INTELSAT," pp. 655-80. 

70. Ibid., pp. 670-71. The text, with annexes, of the INTELSAT agreements, as well as the operadng 
agreement and annex, all of which went into effect 12 February 1973, can be found in Space Law and Related 
Documents: International Space Law Documents: U.S. Space Law Documents, 101st Cong., 2d sess., June 1990, S. Print 
101-98, pp. 211-318. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 151 

terms in order to reach a consensus on the text, the clause left Europeans wondering what 
kind of majority was needed for the approval of an international satellite outside the 
Intelsat network, a prerequisite at that time for its launch by the United States. In a letter 
dated 2 October 1970 to Theodore Lefevre, Under Secretary of State Alexis Johnson stat- 
ed that the United States was prepared to launch European satellites "in those cases where 
no negative finding is made by the appropriate Intelsat organ, regardless of the position 
taken by the U.S. in the vote."" The Europeans understood this somewhat "baroque" def- 
inition to mean that a two-thirds vote against the proposed satellite would be required to 
defeat it; if, on the other hand, less than two-thirds of the seventy-seven Intelsat members 
were opposed, the United States would be agreeable to launching it. In other words, 
Europe needed only a little more than one-third of the votes to obtain Intelsat permission 
to launch its satellite. 

In a subsequent letter of 5 February 1971, Johnson clarified the U.S. offer, which was 
substantially limited. Instead of a two-thirds vote of the Intelsat assembly to defeat a 
proposed regional satellite, a two-thirds affirmative vote was needed to support the pro- 
posal. ^^ According to NASA's Acting Administrator George M. Low, this reversal, if not 
accompanied by a specific commitment in advance by the United States to support the 
regional European communications satellite proposal within Intelsat, would "effectively 
kill the chances for post-Apollo participation by Europe."" The U.S. change of position 
was linked to pressures exerted by Comsat and the U.S. aerospace industry. ^^ 

The origin of this policy change cannot be understood vsithout considering the role 
of the Office of Telecommunication Policy. Clay T. Whitehead, a young and resolute sys- 
tems analyst from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had directed this office since 
its inception in September 1970. The aim of the office was to define American policy 
vis-a-vis satellite communications for overseas civilian operations, as well as to support the 
American aerospace industry against what was perceived as attempts by NASA and the 
State Department to endanger the U.S. monopoly in communications satellites. On 
7 January 1971, in the much publicized "Statement of Government Policy on Satellite 
Telecommunications for International Civil Aviation Operations," the Office of 
Telecommunication Policy called for the international utilization (as opposed to interna- 
tional development and utilization, as NASA had proposed) of a specialized aeronautical 
communications satellite system (called Aerosat) for international civil aviation opera- 
tions.'* The office's statement, however, had wider implications. In February 1971, one 

71. U. Alexis Johnson to Theodore Lefevre, letter, 2 October 1970, p. 5, CSE/Comite ad hoc (71)9, 22 
April 1971, Historical Archives, European University Institute. 

72. U. Alexis Johnson to Theodore Lefevre, letter, 5 February 1971, CSE/Comite ad hoc (71)10, 
Historical Archives, European University Institute. 

73. Memorandum to the file (teleconference between Dr. George M. Low and Under Secretary Alexis 
Johnson), ISJanuary 1971, RG 255, 74-734, box 17, NASA History Office. 

74. Michael Freudenheim, "Satellite Splits U.S., Europeans," San Francisco Sunday Examiner and 
Chronicle, 7 March 1971, cited in Burl Valentine, "Europe and the Post-Apollo Experience," Research Policy 1 
(1971-1972): 117. For more detail on the pressure from Comsat, see Memorandum to the file (teleconference 
between Low and Johnson), 13January 1971, RG 255, 74-734, box 17; Arnold Frutkin, Memorandum to the file 
(Lefevre meeting preparation, Johnson/Charyk discussions), 25 January 1971, RG 255, 74-734, box 14, NASA 
History Office. 

75. "Nixon Administration announces policy on aeronautical satellite communications," press release, 
7 January 1971, Richard Nixon Project, White House Confidential Files, Subject Files, UT 1, box 14, Executive 
Office of the President, National Archives. This statement was supplemented by another one issued 19 March 
1971, 'The National Program on Satellite Telecommunications for International Civil Aviation Operations," 
attached to letter, Nilson to Hammarstrom, 2 April 1971, folder 50771, Historical Archives, European University 
Institute, Florence, Italy. 

152 Creating Systems: Europe 

month later, Clay Whitehead heavily criticized U.S.-European negotiations on post-Apollo 
space programs, whose sole outcome, in his opinion, would be to give away "space launch- 
ers, space operations and related know how at 10 cents on the dollar" (a reference to the 
American proposal that Europe share 10 percent of the development costs) ."^ 

The Europeans reacted strongly to the new restrictive American policy. Lefevre found 
it "confirmed neither by the joint preparatory work nor by the wording used in the text" 
(of the Intelsat agreements) and asked the United States for a further clarification of its 
position." Not until September 1971, after the signing of the Definitive Intelsat 
Agreements, did Lefevre receive the clarifications he had been asking for since March.'* 

According to those clarifications, the new U.S. position was that the availability of 
American launchers was not conditioned on European participation in post-Apollo space 
programs. Those two issues were now, for the first time, separate. The United States would 
offer launch services for satellites intended to provide international public communica- 
tions services, including European regional satellites, provided that the Intelsat governing 
body approved this by a two-thirds majority vote. The proponents of a regional satellite, 
then, would bear the burden of persuading the General Assembly that the proposal would 
not cause significant economic harm to the global network and would be technologically 
compatible with Intelsat. The United States would consider a vote by Intelsat to be bind- 
ing, contrary to the general interpretafion of Article XFV. 

The geographical area to be covered by any European regional satellite system, how- 
ever, was another point of contention. The preliminary provisional satellite system out- 
lined by ESRO Director General Hermann Bondi at the European Conference in Venice 
in September 1970 proposed voice, data, and television services within the member states 
of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations (CEPT) , 
but only television services to countries of the European Broadcasting Area as defined by 
the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which extended from Iceland to the 
North African coast and from Portugal to Lebanon and Israel. Representatives of the 
Office of Telecommunication Policy, the Federal Communications Commission, and the 
State Department's Bureau of Economic Affairs examined the proposal and judged that 
it "would appear to cause measurable, but not significant, economic harm to Intelsat." 
The United States, though, would not support the proposal if the services offered in the 
European Broadcasting Area embraced anything more than television. The United States 
felt that the satellite would cause significant economic harm to Intelsat and was, therefore, 
"clearly unacceptable" to the United States.™ 

Representatives of the Committee of Alternates of the European Space Conference 
(which included representatives of both ELDO and ESRO) warmly welcomed the "decou- 
pling" of launcher availability and participafion in NASA space programs.*" The ESRO 

76. Clay Whitehead to Peter Flanigan, memorandum, 6 February 1971, Nixon Project, White House 
Confidential Files, Subject Files, box 2, National Archives. 

77. Theodore Lefevre to U. Alexis Johnson, letter, 3 March 1971, CSE/Comite ad hoc (71)12, Historical 
Archives, European University Institute. 

78. On this and other aspects relating to the American decision-making process during the Intelsat 
negotiations, see Lorenza Sebesta, "The Politics of Technological Cooperation in Space: U.S.-European 
Negotiations on the Post-Apollo Programme," History and Technology 11 (1994): 317-41. 

79. Under Secretary of State Johnson to Minister Lefevre, text of letter, 1 September 1971, Annex I, 8 
November 1971, CSE/Comite ad hoc (71)18, Historical Archives, European University Institute. See also the 
Department of State telegram on European participation in the post-Apollo program, "Visit of Minister Lefevre," 
24 February 1971, RG 255, 74-734, box 16; Second Discussion with Representatives of the European Space 
Conference concerning European Participation in the post-Apollo Program, 8 February 1971, RG 255, 74-734, 
box 16, NASA History Office. 

80. Joint Meeting of the Committee of Alternates and the ad hoc Committee of Officials, minutes, 22 
September 1971, CSE/CS(71)PV/27th October 1971, Historical Archives, European University Institute. 

Bevond THE Ionosphere 153 

Council soon afterward adopted the so-called first package deal, which called for U.S. and 
European participation in Aerosat, the creation of a weather satellite program, and cov- 
erage of the communications satellite program to include the full European Broadcasting 
Area as defined by the ITU. The package deal also reaffirmed the priority of European 
launchers, although on the condition that their cost would not exceed 125 percent of 
comparable non-European ones. If the United States denied launch services, then the 
actual cost of production, as well as any development costs, would be permitted.^' 

Lefevre now requested from Johnson further explanation of the U.S. stand on launch- 
er availability, as well as American support for a European communications satellite with- 
in Intelsat, based on specific operational systems, missions, geographical coverage, 
frequency bands, and technical configurations.**^ In his reply of June 1972, Johnson point- 
ed to three difficulties: (1) its economic impact (higher charges to users); (2) technical 
incompatibility (the satellite's orbit placed it too close to the United States coastline) ; and, 
most important of all, (3) the definition of the European region. Johnson explained once 
and for all that the United States would not support the concept of the European 
Broadcasting Area as defined by the ITU, which covered the former French colonies of 
North Africa, the western portion of the Soviet Union, and the lands bordering the east- 
ern Mediterranean, including Iraq, but not Saudi Arabia.**' 

In October 1972, President Nixon laid out the U.S. position on the availability of 
launchers in the following terms: "United States launch assistance will be available to 
interested countries and international organizations for those satellite projects which are 
for peaceful purposes and are consistent with obligations under relevant international 
agreements and arrangements." With respect to communications satellites, Nixon 

1. The U.S. will provide appropriate launch assistance for those satellite systems on which 
Intelsat makes a favorable recommendation in accordance with Article XIV of its definitive 
arrangement. 2. If launch assistance is requested in the absence of a favorable recommen- 
dation by Intelsat, the United States will provide launch assistance for those systems which 
the United States had supported within Intelsat so long as the country or international enti- 
ty requesting the assistance considers in good faith that it has met its relative obligations 
under Article XIV of the definite arrangement. 3. In those cases where requests for launch 
assistance are maintained in the absence of a favorable Intelsat recommendation and the 
United States had not supported the proposed system, the United States will reach a decision 
on such a request after taking into account the degree to which the proposed system would 
be modified in the light of the factors which were the basis for the lack of support xoithin 

81. Report by the Secretary General of the European Space Conference on the Status of European 
Space Programmes, 7 December 1972, CSE/CM (Dec. 72)5, Historical Archives, European University Institute. 
See also Arturo Russo, The Early Development of the Telecommunications Satellite Programme in ESRO (1 965-1 971), ESA 
HSR-9 (Noordwijk: ESA, 1993). 

82. Theodore Lefevre to U. Alexis Johnson, letter, 23 December 1971, Annex, to CSE/CS (72)1, 
4 January 1972, Historical Archives, European University Institute. The entire exchange of correspondence 
between Lefevre and Johnson up to this date is in CSE/Comite ad hoc (71) 22, 22 December 1971. On the 
European communications satellite program, see Russo, The Early Development, passim. 

83. The definition of the European Broadcasting Area is cited in Availability of Launchers for the 
European Communication Satellites Programme, 22 September 1972, ESRO/PB-TEL(72)5, Historical Archives, 
European University Institute. 

84. Richard M. Nixon, "United States Policy Governing the Provision of Launch Assistance," 9 October 
1972, Office of the Press Secretary, Washington, DC. 

154 Creating Systems: Europe 

This declaration gave rise to dissimilar interpretations in Europe and the United 
States. Whereas the Europeans saw it as sanctioning the de facto binding character of any 
Intelsat recommendation, U.S. officials, in contrast, stressed the second and third points 
and emphasized U.S. resolution to offer the broadest guarantee of flexibility vis-a-vis 
recommendations made under Article XIV. *^ 

After the launch failure of Europa II in November 1971 and then its cancellation in 
April 1973, the directors of Symphonic were without a launch vehicle. They then turned 
to both the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Intercosmos space agency did 
not oppose the launch but stated it would not be technically feasible until 1976, which was 
too late for the Europeans. The United States, on the other hand, was able to promise a 
first launch window in 1975. After protracted negotiations, which remain an object of dis- 
pute today, an agreement was reached in June 1974. In this agreement, France and West 
Germany confirmed the experimental character of Symphonie, and if the satellite 
entered an operational phase, the two countries agreed to conform to any decisions 
reached within Intelsat.'*'^ Meanwhile, the European Space Conference had adopted the 
so-called second package deal, whose three main programs included the Ariane 


Between 1965 and 1973, NASA confronted two conflicting trends: the easing of con- 
trols on launch services and overseas technology transfers and the pressure from the 
telecommunications industry to tighten those controls. NASA had to shape those oppos- 
ing trends into a coherent policy vis-a-vis European requests for communications satellite 
launch services. Some U.S. officials viewed sharing technology with Europe as achieving 
two policy goals: (1) blunting European criticism about the technology gap and (2) divert- 
ing resources from military rockets to civilian launchers as part of a global policy of 
nonproliferation. The United States abandoned this strategy when France acquired its 
own military launching capability. 

Much of the tergiversation between the United States and Europe over communica- 
tions satellites and launch services took place within the framework of Intelsat negotia- 
tions for the Definitive Agreements. The ambiguous wording of Article XIV provided the 
United States grounds on which alternately to soften or harden its position on the cre- 
ation of a European satellite system outside the Intelsat network. Behind the hardening 
of the U.S. position was pressure from Comsat and the aerospace industry, which exerted 
pressure directly or through the Office of Telecommunication Policy. 

85. Creola, "European-U.S. Space Cooperation," p. 99; Richard Barnes to John Logsdon, letter, 28 
February 1996. 

86. Note pour le Conseil d'Administration du CNES [Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales] par le 
Secretaire executif frangais de Symphonie, "SituaUon des possibilites de lancement du satellite Symphonie," 17 
September 1973, and CNES, Secretariat executif Symphonie, Rapport de presentation, 25 Octobre 1973, cote 
81/244, art. 188, liasse 517; DGRST, "Note sur le programme Symphonie," 18June 1974, cote 81/244, art. 187, 
liasse 515, Archives Nationales, Fontainbleau. See also the exchange of notes in United States Treaties and Other 
International Agreements, Vol. 25, Part 3 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975). The author is 
indebted to Richard Barnes for his reminder of this last publication. The two Symphonie satellites were placed 
in orbit in December 1974 and August 1975. Claude Carlier and Marcel Gilli, Us trente premieres annees du CNES: 
L'Agence franfaise de I'espace, 1962-1992 (Paris: La Documentation Francaise, 1994), pp. 227-30. 

87. Krige and Russo, Europe in Space, pp. 1 1 1-12. 

Bevdnd the Ionosphere 


Figure 24 

The launch of Ariane 1 on 24 December 1979 from 
the French space agency 's complex at Kourou, French 
Guiana. (Courtesy of NASA) 

The decision to proceed with the Space 
Shuttle program also had an impact on U.S.- 
European cooperation. The Space Shuttle 
seemed to promise an extraordinary qualitative 
leap in launch systems and their cost effective- 
ness, and it also seemed to make any European 
rocket obsolescent. Thus, to a certain degree, the 
Space Shutde decision reduced U.S. interest in 
preventing the Europeans from developing their 
own launch capabilities. 

Equally important was a real shift in U.S. pol- 
icy vis-a-vis Europe. Whereas the Kennedy and 
Johnson administrations had tried to appease the 
Europeans, as confrontations between the United 
States and the Soviet Union played in the back- 
ground, Nixon shifted from confrontation to 
detente, thereby weakening the political weight 
of the Atlantic partnership. Then, in the summer 
of 1971, the United States experienced its first 
trade deficit since 1894, as well as a severe reduc- 
tion of gold reserves, which led to the decision to 
stop selling gold to foreign banks and to abandon 
the so-called Bretton Woods system (the fixed 
gold-to-dollar exchange rate instituted following 
World War II). A 10-percent across-the-board 
import duty was just another troubling economic 
signal to Europe. As often occurs, economic crisis 
feeds isolationism, especially in the face of an 
expanding, competitive European Economic 
Community (Britain, Denmark, and Ireland soon 
became new members) .'^^ 

By the first years of the 1970s, efforts to liber- 
alize American policy on launch services and the 
sharing of technology had come full circle. They 
had failed in the face of prevailing internal eco- 
nomic interests, increasing competition from 
European industry, changing priorities in U.S. 
foreign policy, and European developments in 
both the military and space fields. From the 
European perspective, the unwillingness of the 
United States to provide firm assurances of 
launcher availability for communications satel- 
lites was but one factor that lead to the European 
decision to endorse France's L-IIIS launcher 
(later known as Ariane). That decision has to be 
understood within the context of strained U.S.- 
French relations — itself a legacy of the dissension 

88. Cosdgliola, France and the U.S., pp. 167-72. See also Pierre Melandri, Une incertaine alliance: Les Etats- 
Unis et I'Europe, 1973-1983 (Pzris: Publications de laSorbonne, 1988), pp. 45-77, and the insightful account writ- 
ten by the American ambassador to the European Communities, Robert Schaetzel, The Unhinged Alliance: America 
and the European Community (New York: Harper, 1975), pp. 42-53. 

156 Creating Systems: Europe 

between Charles de Gaulle and Lyndon Johnson — ^which endured well into the 1970s, as 
well as the confused nature of the European space field. 

Institutional uncertainty regarding the future of the European space organization was 
particularly acute between 1966 and 1971. Financial commitments were weak in compar- 
ison to NASA; industrial experience with satellite technology was limited; international 
legislation on communications satellites was not yet defined; and the attitudes of poten- 
tial satellite users were conservative because of the uncertainty of commercial revenues, 
the high costs of the system, and anticipated problems of technological reliability."'' Not 
until December 1971 did the ESRO Council endorse the start of a communications 
satellite program, the Orbiting Test Satellite. 

Furthermore, not all the European states agreed entirely on the objectives of region- 
al space policy. Britain always criticized proposals to build a European launcher and pre- 
ferred the less expensive route of relying on U.S. satellites, while Italy was interested only 
in projects that guaranteed contracts for its industry (this was apparently not the case of 
the European launcher). West Germany, after the failure of Europa II in November 1971, 
was eager to assume the prime financial burden and contract management for Spacelab, 
while withdrawing its earlier support for an independent European launcher. France and 
Belgivim were the only countries that never varied from their support of a European 

Even within France, though, not everybody was in favor of a European launcher. 
Nonetheless, those who supported it — de Gaulle and then his successor, Georges 
Pompidou — created a strong constituency, and they made good use of American laimcher 
policy to improve their position. Of equal importance is the fact that the technicians who 
first conceived Ariane did not look for a technological breakthrough, which would have 
been politically and economically difficult to champion given historical 
circumstances. Instead, they sought to design a technically easy and reliable rocket, draw- 
ing partly on knowledge acquired through the development of Diamant."" A national 
launcher was neither financially possible nor strategically convenient: the project had to be 
European to distribute the financial burden and to secure future users.*" Also, it had to be 
technologically uncomplicated to prevent the cost overruns that had haunted ELDO's past. 

In the end, all of the reluctant European partners were induced to participate in the 
second package deal. The European decision to build Ariane had many roots and motives, 
among which was the unwillingness of the United States to guarantee availability of launch- 
ers for operational communications satellites. The decision to build Ariane, however, was 
not assured until the very end. The hectic bargaining that took place in July 1973 testified 
to the difficulty of the process up to the very last moment, and it dramatized the central 
role of international bargaining. If West Germany and Britain did not have their pet 
projects (Spacelab and maritime communications, respectively) to protect and to garner 
support for, the birth of Ariane probably would have been a far more traumatic delivery. 

89. Muller, TELECOM Program," pp. 105-40. 

90. See the illuminating contribution of Andre Lebeau, "La naissance d'Ariane" in Chadeau, ed., 
L'ambition technologique, pp. 75-91, and the ensuing debate among eyewitnesses of the time, ibid., pp. 95-108. 

91. CNES, Rapport groupe sectorial 6, Programmes d'etudes et developpement des lanceurs, 30 June 
1970, cote 81/401, art. 70, liasse 179, Archives Nationales, Paris. 

Chapter 12 

The Formulation of British and 

European Policy Toward an 

International Satellite 

Telecommunications System: The 

Role of the British Foreign Office^ 

by Nigel Wright 

Several accounts of the establishment of Intelsat have tended to present Britain, and 
the British Post Office specifically, as a villain, desiring to obstruct the early development 
of a satellite system to secure an extra lease on life for its large investments in transocean- 
ic telephone cables.^ By concentrating on the supposed intentions of the Post Office, such 
accounts have tended to ignore the role of other government departments in the formu- 
lation of British policy. Moreover, while identifying the foreign policy-oriented nature of 
the Kennedy administration's satellite communications goals, the literature on Intelsat 
has not looked in any detail at the parts played by overseas foreign ministries within the 
overall course of the intergovernmental negotiations that produced Intelsat. 

This chapter provides a fuller picture of British government thinking by concentrat- 
ing on the role of the British Foreign Office in the preliminary phase of the exploratory 
intergovernmental discussions that occurred during 1962. This phase preceded both the 
formation of the European Conference on Satellite Communications (CETS, the French 
acronym) in 1963 and the formal multilateral negotiations that began at the start of 1964 
and led to the Intelsat Interim Agreements of mid-1964.' 

Throughout 1962, although British officials were aware of the potential threat that an 
American satellite system posed for British and Commonwealth cable interests, their 
desire to protect those interests did not equate automatically with a desire to frustrate the 
early development of satellite communications. British officials realized from the outset 
that satellites and cables would play complementary roles within the overall system of 
international communications. In fact, rather than wanting to stall satellite communica- 
tions, many in Britain, both in and out of government, believed that Britain should con- 
struct its own satellite system in collaboration with the Commonwealth and Europe. This 

1. The research on which this chapter is based was supported by a Science and Engineering Research 
Council/Economic and Social Research Council studentship. The author would like to thank Philip Gummett 
for his suggestions and comments on an earlier draft. 

2. For examples of this tendency, see Delbert D. Smith, Communication by Satellite: A Vision in Retrospect 
(Leyden, MA: A.W. Sijthoff, 1976), p. 136; Walter McDougall, . . . The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of 
the Space Age (New York: Ba.sic Books, 1985), pp. 356-57. 

3. The formal period of negotiation is covered in Judith Tegger Kildow, Intelsat: Policy Maker's Dilemma 
(Lexington, MA; D.C. Heath, 1973); Jonathan ¥. Galloway, The Politics and Technology of Satellite Communications 
(Lexington, MA; Lexington Books, 1972). These works focus mainly on developments within the United States, 


158 Creating Systems: Europe 

system would have been both separate from and competitive with a U.S.-initiated system. 
Foreign Office officials, however, considered that British interests would be better served 
if Britain were to cooperate fully with the United States in constructing a single world 
satellite system in which as many countries as possible were represented. It was inevitable 
that a single system would be led by the United States in its early years. Nonetheless, 
Britain's cable interests could still be safeguarded from within that system. That safeguard 
could be achieved if Britain insisted on taking an active role in the system's design and 
operation, thereby ensuring that it fully met the requirements of Britain and the 
Commonwealth, as well as Western Europe and the rest of the world. 

Britain and the United States 

By the early 1960s, Britain had long held a prominent and leading position in inter- 
national telecommunications.* After World War II, Britain maintained this position with- 
in the framework of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Partnership, established 
under the terms of the Commonwealth Telegraphs Agreement of 1948."* During the early 
1960s, the Commonwealth accounted for about 20 percent of the world's total intercon- 
tinental telecommunications traffic, with the United Kingdom alone accounting for 
10 percent. This strong position was based on an extensive network of cable and radio 
facilities. These facilities were set to be extensively modernized through the 1960s with the 
installation, in successive stages, of a comprehensive system of high-capacity repeatered 
submarine telephone cables, which were a recent innovation first introduced in the mid- 
1950s. Spanning both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and connecting together each of 
the major Commonwealth countries, the new network was expected to meet 
Commonwealth traffic growth into the 1970s.'^ The overall Commonwealth network, com- 
prising the international communications facilities of each member country, was coordi- 
nated by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Board, through which each party to 
the 1948 Agreement was required to consult with its partners before extending or adding 
to its part of the network. 

By 1960, several British government departments, including the Post Office and the 
armed forces, had expressed an interest in the practical and commercial potential of com- 
munication by satellite. As yet, however, the whole subject was ringed with various techni- 
cal and commercial uncertainties. Very little experimentation had been done with actual 
satellites, even in the United States, and the commercial feasibility of satellite communi- 
cations had yet to be demonstrated practically. Nevertheless, the Post Office, responsible 

4. The total net outstanding investment represented by the assets making up the Commonwealth sys- 
tem was approximately £1 10 million (more than $300 million). "Means of Associating Commonwealth Countries 
with a European Regional Organisation," undated draft, circa late August 1963, FO 371/171060, GP1173/289, 
Public Record Office, London (hereafter "London PRO"). For the origins and subsequent development of the 
Commonwealth network, see Daniel R. Headrick, The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunications and International Politics 
1851-1945 (Oxford, Eng.: Oxford University Press, 1991); Hugh Barty-King, Girdle Round the Earth: The Story of 
Cable and Wirekss and its Predecessors to Mark the Group's Jubilee 1929-1979 (London: Heinemann, 1979). 

5. The original parties to the 1948 Agreement were Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South 
Africa, Southern Rhodesia, and the United Kingdom. By the end of 1962, Ceylon, Cyprus, Ghana, Malaysia, and 
Nigeria had joined, while South Africa had withdrawn from the Commonwealth on becoming a republic in 1961. 

6. The Commonwealth "round-the-world" telephone cable scheme had been accepted by the 
Commonwealth governments during 1958. It had been estimated to cost a total of £88 million — a figure that 
included the Anglo-Canadian share of the first transatlantic telephone cable, TAT-I, laid in partnership with 
AT&T. Britain had agreed to contribute 50 percent of this total. "Proposed Commonwealth Pacific Telephone 
Cable System," Post Office Electrical En^neers' Journal b^ (April 1960): 42--44. This scheme included cables to South 
Africa that subsequently were constructed outside of the Commonwealth network. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 159 

for Britain's commercial telecommunications operations, realized that the U.S. lead in 
space and satellite technology, if translated into a U.S. monopoly over commercial satel- 
lite communications operations, could become a threat to the commercial viability of the 
Commonwealth network.' Despite this concern, the Post Office did not expect that satel- 
lites would ever wholly replace cables. Rather, it expected that the two media would have 
"complementary" roles within the overall system of international telecommunications.^ 

Mindful of the various uncertaindes, the British authorities were keen to stay abreast 
of U.S. technical developments and, wherever possible, to become associated with U.S. 
experimental programs. British officials solicited technical discussions with their counter- 
parts in the U.S. government. As a result, a joint civil-military mission headed by Major 
General Leslie de Malapert Thuillier of the Cabinet Office traveled to the United States 
during October and November 1960. During this visit, NASA officials invited the Post 
Office to participate in NASA's program of satellite communications experiments.' A 
memorandum of understanding was signed the following February, thereby laying the 
groundwork for Post Office involvement in NASA's experimental active satellite program. 
Relay. Later, following an agreement between NASA and AT&T, the Post Office also 
agreed to participate in the trials of AT&T's own experimental satellite project, Telstar.'" 

As its contribution to the Relay and Telstar tests, the Post Office undertook to design 
and construct an experimental ground station in Britain. Following extensive surveys of 
the southwest of England, a site was chosen at Goonhilly Downs on the Lizard peninsula 
in Cornwall." The United States had built a large aperture horn antenna at Andover, 
Maine, which was protected from heavy local winter snows by a radome. The Goonhilly 
antenna, by contrast, took the form of an uncovered steerable eighty-five-foot-diameter 
(twenty-six-meter-diameter) paraboloid dish constructed to withstand gales rather than 
snow. Designed by Husband and Co. of Sheffield, Goonhilly benefited greatly from that 
company's earlier experience with the 250-foot (seventy-six-meter) Jodrell Bank radio 
telescope. Although initially constructed for experimental tests with Telstar and Relay, the 
Goonhilly antenna was intended to be compatible with a range of satellite designs and 
orbits and so could serve a future operational system. After its completion in mid-1962. 

7. Herbert Schiller has strongly suggested that a satellite communications monopoly was, in fact, a con- 
scious goal of many U.S. policy makers, who exhibited "a compulsive drive to transfer permanently to American 
hands the former British communications superiority." Herbert I. Schiller, Mass Communications and American 
Empire (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1970), p. 136. 

8. For expressions of this view, see Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, V.632, written answers, 
21 December 1960, col. 189-90, and V.659, Oral, 8 May 1962, col. 204-5. The conclusion that bodi satellites and 
cables would be accommodated in a complementary relationship has the obvious precedent of the accommoda- 
tion between shortwave radio and telegraph cables in the late 1920s. See Headrick, Invisible Weapon, chapter 11. 

9. "Discussions with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration," Post Office memorandum, 
28 August 1961, CAB 134/2144, JTS(61)6, London PRO. Initially, the Post Office was less enthusiastic about this 
offer than we might now expect. Captain Booth of the Post Office had received NASA's invitation very coolly in 
the eyes of others among the Thuillier delegation. Booth apparently was unaware that NASA's authority extend- 
ed to the sphere of satellite communications and regarded AT&T as the more authoritative organization within 
the United States. See D. Gibson, minute, 9 February 1961, FO 371/157381, IAS 131/8, London PRO. See also 
note 10 below. It should be recalled that in December 1960, the Eisenhower administration had issued a state- 
ment of its preferred satellite communications policy, in which it emphasized the traditional role of private 
industry in U.S. communications. 

10. AT&T and the Post Office were long-standing business partners, having introduced the first transat- 
lantic radiotelephone services in the late 1920s and the first transadantic telephone cable in the 1950s. In fact, 
AT&T already had asked the Post Office to participate in experimental satellite trials before NASA's decision to 
become involved in similar trials. Postmaster General to Prime Minister, 28 July and 6 September 1960, PREM 
11/3098, London PRO. 

11. Technical details of the Goonhilly station can be found in F.J.D. Taylor, ed.. The Goonhilly Project: 
Communication-Satellite Ground Station (London: The Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1964). 

160 Creating Systems: Europe 

Goonhilly's construction was believed to have cost only a fifth of the price of the U.S. sta- 
tion at Andover.'^ British officials were hopeful that British industry would be able to sell 
and build similar stations around the world for use with an eventual commercial system. 

On 24 July 1961, President Kennedy issued an invitation to the nations of the world 
"to participate in a communication satellite system, in the interest of world peace and a 
close brotherhood among peoples throughout the world. "'^ He had adopted the goal of 
an international satellite communications system, in part at least, as a means by which to 
restore and maintain U.S. technological prestige in the wake of the recent space success- 
es of the Soviet Union. '^ Soon afterwards, U.S. officials explained their view that there 
should be a single global satellite system offering nondiscriminatory access to all coun- 
tries. Only one such system could be financially viable, they claimed, because rival com- 
peting systems almost certainly would cause each and every system to suffer a financial 
loss. However, they did not make clear the form that they intended international partici- 
pation to take. There was thus some suspicion that the United States intended to build, 
launch, and control a system entirely by itself with other nations' participation being lim- 
ited solely to the role of users of the system, thereby cementing a U.S. monopoly. 

Kennedy's invitation focused British thinking. Britain would have to act quickly to 
forestall the perceived U.S. threat to the Commonwealth network. Ideally, Britain would 
need to act before the Unites States had taken its own planning to the point where that 
country was ready to initiate concrete action. Before it could initiate any action of its own, 
however, the British government was bound to consider the interests of its 
Commonwealth telecommunications partners and to consult with them accordingly. For 
this purpose, a Commonwealth Satellite Communications Conference was arranged to be 
held in London in the spring of 1962.''^ 

The Post Office had the primary responsibility for civil telecommunications, and it 
had the task of coordinating the details and agenda for the Commonwealth Conference. 
The views of other interested government departments had to be taken into account 
when determining British goals and policy. To achieve this, an interdepartmental working 
party was established at the beginning of 1962 under the chairmanship of Sir Robert 
Harvey, the Post Office Deputy Director General. 

In addition to the Post Office, two other departments took a special interest in satel- 
lite communications — namely, the Ministry of Aviation and the Foreign Office. The indi- 
vidual positions that these three took into the working party stemmed from a number of 
different considerations and criteria, although there was considerable overlap among at 
least some of their specific goals. 

12. Ronald C. Hope-Jones, "Satellite Communications: the Salient Facts," 15 March 1963, FO 
371/171048, GPl 173/48, London PRO. 

13. Galloway, The Politics and Technology, p. 26. 

14. Vernon Van Dyke, Pride and Power: The Rationale of the Space Program (Urbana: University of Illinois 
Press, 1964), p. 25. 

15. The Post Office originally had intended to seek its Commonwealth partners' views during 1961, but 
the conference arranged for the end of that year was postponed until spring 1962, to allow for the conclusion 
of the negotiations toward the establishment of ELDO, thereby allowing the conference to meet with the knowl- 
edge that an independent European launcher would become available in due course. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 161 

The Ministry of Aviation 

The Ministry of Aviation's interest in satellite communications arose from its role as 
the department responsible for Britain's contribution to the European Launcher 
Development Organization (ELDO). In this capacity, it intended to advance the interests 
of both ELDO and the British aerospace industry. 

ELDO itself was in large part a product of the British government's desire to foster 
closer political ties to the nations of Western Europe, especially those of the Common 
Market."* Its origins lay with the cancellation of Britain's Blue Streak missile project in 
1960, when the possibility was raised of continuing the development of the basic rocket, 
stripped of its specifically military aspects, to produce a satellite launcher." The only jus- 
tification that British officials could find for proceeding with this expensive project, rather 
than relying on U.S.-built launchers, was that an independent British launcher could be 
used to launch commercial communications satellites. This reasoning reflected a belief, 
widespread in both government and industry, that while the United States would be will- 
ing to make launchers available to other countries for scientific satellites, and to Britain for 
military satellites, they would be unwilling to launch foreign communications satellites and 
thereby prevent the emergence of commercial competition with a U.S.-owned system. '*' 

Subsequently, Blue Streak was enlisted in Britain's attempts to improve its relations 
with Western Europe. In fact, by the end of 1960, the Cabinet had determined that the 
development of Blue Streak should be continued only within the context of European col- 
laboration, and this option was pursued.'" 

The commercial potential of satellite communications was still regarded as the most 
significant role for the actual launcher. The Minister of Aviation, Peter Thorneycroft, 
stressed this potential as he toured Commonwealth and European capitals in search of 
support for a collaborative project. Commonwealth countries expressed little interest, 
however, leading Thorneycroft to concentrate his efforts within Europe.^" After a pro- 
tracted period of negotiation, those efforts led to the establishment of ELDO, whose 
Convention was opened for signature early in 1962.^' 

ELDO's initial program did not include any plans for a complementary program of 
satellite communications research. This absence reflected British and French Treasury 
opposition, along with the objections of the British Post Office, which was concerned by 
the likely complications that a European satellite program would introduce into the exist- 
ing Commonwealth partnership. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Aviation retained its interest 
in satellite communications and was intent on using a European launcher to launch satel- 
lites in the later stages of whatever international system was established. The Ministry of 

16. Initially, the British government's intention had been to foster closer links between the European 
Common Market and the countries of the European Free Trade Association. A formal decision to apply for actu- 
al membership in the Common Market was not taken until mid-1961. John Campbell, Edward Heath: A Biography 
(London: Pimlico, 1994), pp. 113, 116. 

17. For a fuller account of ELDO's origins and the part played by the Macmillan government's 
European aspirations, see John Krige, The Launch of ELDO, ESA HSR-7 (Noordwijk: ESA, March 1993). 

18. Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee on Blue Streak (GEN 716), minutes of first meeting, 6 July 1960, 
CAB 130/173, London PRO. 

19. Ad Hoc Ministerial Committee on Blue Streak (GEN 716), minutes of third meedng, 5 December 
1960, CAB 130/173, London PRO. 

20. The Commonwealth and European governments shared a mutual antipathy toward 
Commonwealth-European collaboration. However, Australia was included in the membership of ELDO by virtue 
of the extensive Woomera rocket range from where the European launcher was to be fired. 

21 . For detailed accounts of these negotiadons, see Krige, The Launch of ELDO; Michelangelo De Maria, 
The History ofElDOPart 1: 1961-1964, ESA HSR-10 (Noordwijk: ESA, September 1993). 

162 Creating Systems: Europe 

Aviation's officials expressed doubt that ELDO would be allowed a role in a U.S.-led system. 
For this reason, they expressed a strong preference for a separate Commonwealth- 
European satellite system within which ELDO could be given a guaranteed place. If 
desired, the operation of this separate system could then be coordinated with its U.S. coun- 
terpart such that both would effectively become subsystems within an overall world system. 

The Post Office 

The Post Office position derived from an interaction between its membership in the 
Commonwealth Telecommunications Partnership and its statutory obligation to conduct 
its operations according to strictly commercial criteria. Initially, the Post Office favored 
the establishment of an independent Commonwealth-European satellite system, because 
it believed that the design of a U.S. system would not adequately meet Commonwealth 
requirements. The Post Office was aware that U.S. organizations, including AT&T, want- 
ed to establish a satellite system at the earliest possible opportunity and that proposals had 
been made for low-altitude systems using as many as 50 satellites in random polar or 
inclined orbits. ^^ The Post Office saw such a system as best serving the needs of the 
Northern Hemisphere and the profitable transatlantic telecommunications routes. It did 
not believe that such systems would provide the broad global coverage that was necessary 
to meet fully the needs of traffic among the Commonwealth countries, which were wide- 
ly dispersed over both hemispheres. 

Both the Post Office and the Ministry of Aviation had made studies of possible satel- 
lite systems. Each had concluded that the broadest coverage would be best provided by a 
system of position-controlled, as distinct from randomly orbiting, satellites in medium- 
altitude equatorial orbits.-^ Launching such a system would be well within the expected 
capabilities of the ELDO launcher. However, such orbits could be best reached using 
launch sites on the equator, and for this reason, the studies had raised considerable doubt 
about the suitability of the Australian Woomera launch site, from where the ELDO rock- 
et would be fired initially. 

The Post Office realized that the U.S. lead in developing both launchers and satellites 
meant that the first commercial satellite communications system to be orbited would 
almost inevitably be U.S. in origin. Despite this, its studies had suggested that traffic 
growth would be such as to allow a second system to be established profitably in the mid- 
1970s. The Post Office believed, therefore, that its participation in a U.S. initial system 
should be minimal and take the form of a lease of circuits rather than a share of owner- 
ship, while Britain and Europe built up their capability to construct an independent 
second system.^"* 

The obligation to fulfill its purposes according to commercial criteria had specific 
consequences for the Post Office's views concerning the procurement of equipment for 

22. AT&T proposed such a system to the Federal Communications Commission in July 1960. Smith, 
Communication b^ Satellite, p. 58. The company's experimental Telstar satellites were intended to be the forerun- 
ners of a system of this type. 

23. Long Distance Communications by Satellite, subcommittee of the Joint Civil and Services 
Telecommunications Committee, Memorandum JTS(61) 11, 31 October 1961, CAB 134/2144, London PRO. 
The current thinking of the Post Office with regard to the design of a satellite system is oudined, albeit without 
specific reference to Commonwealth requirements, in WJ. Bray, "Satellite Communicadon Systems," Post Office 
Ekctrical Engineers' Journal 55 (July 1962): 97-104. 

24. Ronald C. Hope-Jones, "Commonwealth Conference on Satellite Communications," 23 March 1962, 
FO 371/165275, GT2/54, London PRO. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 163 

the second system. The assessment that a second system could be profitable depended on 
a number of assumptions, one of which was that its costs should include only the cost of 
purchasing launchers and not the full cost of developing the European launcher.^' 
Moreover, the Post Office wanted to insist that the European launcher would be used only 
so long as its purchase cost was no more than that for an equivalent U.S.-built launcher — 
a condition that the Post Office extended to all forms of relevant equipment.'^* 

The Foreign Office 

Officials within the Foreign Office took a wholly different approach to that of their 
colleagues in the Post Office and the Ministry of Aviation. While the Post Office had 
approached the matter from the perspective of a commercial telecommunications orga- 
nization, and the Ministry of Aviation from the standpoint of the British and European 
aerospace industries, Foreign Office officials adopted a much broader view. Alongside the 
technical and commercial issues, they recognized many political problems with potential- 
ly conflicting implications for Britain's relations with the Commonwealth, Europe, and 
the United States. For the Foreign Office, it was as important to resolve and reconcile 
these problems as it was to secure a guaranteed and prominent role for British and 
European industry in the construction of a satellite system. 

Foreign Office officials understood the importance with which their American coun- 
terparts viewed the foreign policy aspects of satellite communications and their desire for 
a prestigious technological coup within the context of the Cold War. They realized that if 
Britain was to build a separate and competing satellite system of its own, it would effec- 
tively be rejecting U.S. foreign policy goals. As the leading ally of the United States, Britain 
should look to supporting those goals and should cooperate fully with the United States 
from the outset. This did not mean that Britain should follow the United States blindly 
and forego its own industrial and communications interests. Rather, Britain should seek 
to temper any threat to its interests from within the single world system, by influencing the 
system's design and operation in such a way as to accommodate those interests. It could 
also further both its own and U.S. goals by persuading the European and Commonwealth 
countries that they, too, should join the single world system. If the latter nations were to 
accept similar policy goals to Britain, then all would have a stronger bargaining position 
if they were to enter negotiations with the United States as a bloc. It was important, there- 
fore, that Britain should be prepared to show decisive leadership to both the 
Commonwealth and Western Europe. For the Foreign Office, in the words of an internal 
memorandum, the establishment of a global satellite system was a "major exercise in 
international cooperation" in which: 

25. Maurice Dean to the Secretary of State for Air, memorandum, 12 May 1961, AIR 8/2255, London 
PRO. The Post Office was quite adamant that it would not contribute to the cost of the European launcher or 
even to a proposed program of basic satellite research into techniques common to a range of different satellite 

26. During 1963, the Post Office's commercial bias was compared with that of Comsat in the United 
States; the only difference between them was judged to be that whereas Comsat's commercial bias favored U.S. 
industry, that of the Post Office did not favor British industry. See Edward Heath to Julian Amery, enclosure, 5 
July 196.3, FO 371/171055, GP1173/182, London PRO. It should be noted, however, that the Post Office's com- 
mercial bias meant only that it was not prepared to subsidize European industry by paying noncompetitive 
prices; this did not preclude the possibility of subsidy from elsewhere in government. 

164 Creating S\stems: Europe 

The part that the United Kingdom plays . . . should be commensurate with our standing as 
a Great Power and will have an important bearing on the development of our relations ivith 
the United States, Europe, and the Commonwealth. It will be of great importance for us to 
ensure that we are not pulled one way by our desire to cooperate with the United States, 
another by our desire to act as good Europeans, and yet another by our desire to protect 
Commonwealth interests. It will not be easy to reconcile these divergent interests, and we 
shall greatly improve our chances of doing so if we devote as much constructive thought as 
possible to the whole problem and then give a decisive lead, both to Europe and to the 

For the immediate future, however, the Foreign Office needed first to get its views 
accepted by the British government itself. Only then would it have the authority to begin 
to influence Commonwealth and European opinion. The first step in this process was to 
persuade the officials of other British departments — a task pursued within the interde- 
partmental working party established to determine British policy in advance of the forth- 
coming Commonwealth Conference. 

The Interdepartmental Working Party 

The working party first met in January 1962. At that time, the thinking of officials in 
Whitehall was dominated largely by the concept of an independent Commonwealth- 
European satellite system. This concept also was reflected in the working party. Consistent 
with the positions outlined above, the Post Office and the Ministry of Aviation favored an 
independent system. ■"* Only the Foreign Office representative, Ronald C. Hope-Jones, 
offered any significant support for a single system. 

Hope-Jones offered a number of arguments against an independent system.^ He 
argued that a second satellite system would be unlikely to succeed because countries that 
built ground stations for the U.S. initial system would be unlikely to duplicate their invest- 
ment with a second station to use with British satellites. Moreover, the Post Office's favor- 
able assessment of a second system's commercial viability had depended heavily on the 
assumption that it would take 50 percent of the profitable transatlantic traffic.'^" In its turn, 
this assumption depended heavily on U.S. goodwill toward the second system — a 
questionable assumption when the second system inevitably would undermine the prof- 
itability of the first. With regard to a U.S. system meeting Commonwealth requirements, 
Hope-Jones saw no reason why the United States would not want to configure it to meet 
the needs of the Commonwealth and others. There was some indication that U.S. plan- 

27. Cabinet Combined Communications-Electronics Committee, CCC(63)4, Memorandum by the 
Foreign Office, undated, circa February 1963, CAB 134/1451, London PRO. Although dating from 1963, this 
quote nevertheless is of a piece with Foreign Office comments through 1962. 

28. Ronald Hope-Jones to M.D. Buder, letter, 26 November 1962, FO 371/165249, London PRO. 

29. Hope-Jones summarized his arguments in an internal Foreign Office report during March. See 
"Commonwealth Conference on Satellite Communicadons," 13 March 1962, FO 371/165275, GT2/54, London 
PRO. More generally, Hope-Jones reported his belief that "American thinking . . . [with regard to the pracUcal- 
ides of international cooperaUon in the field of satellite communications] ... is not nearly as far advanced [in 
progress] as is somedmes supposed, and I believe that if we could get a mandate from the Commonwealth to 
discuss our ideas with European countries and could then obtain their support in principle for a joint approach 
to the United States, we should regain a great deal of the iniuative now held by the Americans." 

30. At that Ume, transatlantic routes accounted for almost 80 percent of total intercontinental telecom- 
municadons traffic. Thus, the key to profitability for any satellite system would be the extent of its access to 
transadandc traffic and revenues. Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons, V.674, 29 March 1963, col. 1719. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 165 

ners already had appreciated British views on the desirabihty of the equatorial orbit. If this 
was so, an American system also might use that orbit, in which case a second system would 
be largely a duplication of the first. 

Hope-Jones successfully persuaded the Post Office to accept that a single system 
would be preferable to having two or more competing satellite systems in existence. With 
the Post Office having shifted its ground, the overall balance of opinion within the work- 
ing party shifted similarly. ConsequenUy, the British delegation to the Commonwealth 
Conference was briefed to encourage Commonwealth acceptance for the desirability of 
broad international cooperation with the United States, involving both the 
Commonwealth and Europe. At the same time, the conference should be encouraged to 
endorse further exploratory talks with Europe and with the United States. British minis- 
ters were not yet ready to rule out the possibility of a separate British satellite system, how- 
ever. The Minister of Aviation, among others, was concerned that whatever satellite system 
emerged should provide a guaranteed role for the ELDO launcher. Thus, while ministers 
endorsed the official brief for the British delegation, they did not want to settie final pol- 
icy until after the full round of exploratory talks. Only then, with a clearer idea of foreign 
intentions, would they feel ready to decide where the balance of Britain's best interests lay. 

The Commonwealth Conference 
on SatelHte Communications 

The Commonwealth Conference met in London from 28 March to 13 April 1962. It 
concluded that satellite communications were technically feasible, but that there was still 
much uncertainty regarding the bases for detailed system design and economic estimates. 
Nevertheless, the conference felt that a commercial satellite system should serve as many 
countries as was possible and that "the ideal arrangements would be for the 
Commonwealth to play a full part in a broadly based system of satellite communications, 
rather than become wholly dependent on the United States, or alternately seek to go it 
alone in competition with the United States."" Thus the Commonwealth should seek to 
cooperate fully with the United States and with European countries.''^ 

The conference's endorsement of a Commonwealth approach to Europe, alongside 
that to the United States, had been secured only through strong Foreign Office pressure. 
Commonwealth representatives had shown an extreme reluctance to endorse cooperation 
with Western Europe, fearing that telecommunications would become one more econom- 
ic field in which the balance of British attention would shift away from the Commonwealth 
and toward Europe. '' Australia and Canada would have preferred a more limited form of 
Commonwealth cooperation with the United States. For the smaller, less developed coun- 
tries, meanwhile, satellites held no immediate interest, because the Commonwealth tele- 
phone cable scheme was expected to meet their needs well into the 1970s. 

For political reasons connected to their general policy of seeking closer links with 
Europe, British ministers and officials, including those in the Foreign Office, had intend- 
ed that, following the Commonwealth Conference, exploratory talks should be held with 
Europe in advance of any similar talks with the United States. This plan proved to be 

31. Cabinet Economic Policy Committee, E.A.(62)80, memorandum by the Postmaster General, 13 
June 1962, CAB 134/1696, London PRO. 

32. Registry number 22325/62, File 2A, SWP 21, British Telecom Archives, London. 

33. Foreign Office brief, undated, circa March 1963, FO 371/171030, GP1023/3(A), London PRO. 

166 Creating Systems: Europe 

impractical. Discussion within the Commonwealth Conference had been constrained by a 
lack of detailed knowledge of U.S. plans and intentions. This uncertainty made it difficult 
to discuss anything concrete, and the same limitations equally would affect talks with 
Europe.'' For practical reasons, therefore, it was accepted that talks with the United States 
should be initiated first, and preparations went forward on that basis. 

Alongside the purely practical considerations influencing the decision to make the 
initial approach to the United States, the Foreign Office also believed that an initial 
approach to Europe would restrict Britain's opportunities for making the U.S. authorities 
aware of Commonwealth requirements. It was concerned that the other Europeans might 
insist that the approach to the United States be made by Europe as a whole, speaking with 
one voice. If the rest of Europe did not accept Britain's Commonwealth concerns, that sin- 
gle voice might well be antithetical to British interests. Such a move would produce a clear 
conflict between Britain's Commonwealth interests and its desire for a close association 
with Europe. The risk of conflict would be lessened by stating Commonwealth needs to 
the United States first, thereby avoiding a need to seek European agreement on this point. 

Discussions Between Britain, Canada, 
and the United States 

In accordance with the Commonwealth Conference recommendations, Britain and 
Canada jointly initiated talks with the United States; the U.S. State Department agreed to 
a meeting in Washington on 29-31 October 1962. An earlier meeting had not been pos- 
sible because of the lengthy passage through Congress of the Communications Satellite 
Act. The U.S. Communications Satellite Corporation (Comsat) envisaged by the act had 
yet to be established, while the law itself had left many aspects of future U.S. policy and 
intentions quite vague. Amidst these domestic uncertainties, the State Department did 
not want to be seen to have preempted future U.S. policy. Its officials stressed that the dis- 
cussions would be purely exploratory and that in no way should American comments be 
taken as expressions of future American policy.'^ For the British, too, the talks were not 
intended to be anything more than exploratory, given that the British ministers them- 
selves had not yet decided British policy.'* 

The British came away from Washington with the feeling that the discussions had 
been "friendly and completely frank," with the United States officials having given satis- 
factory answers to nearly all of the questions asked of them." The Americans assured the 
British that they did not intend that other countries should be limited solely to the role of 
users of a U.S.-built satellite system. 

There was general agreement with a British statement that the development of a full 
global satellite system would be evolutionary in character and that it would be construct- 
ed in successive stages, the first of which would be provided by the United States to cover 
the busiest traffic routes. This "evolutionary concept" represented Britain's wish to 
reconcile its desire to support a single global system with the desire that British and 
European industry should be able to provide equipment for the system. Thus, although 
the United States would provide the initial stage, the system's coverage and capacity would 

34. Hope-Jones to Butler, 26 November 1962. 

35. Minute to the Postmaster General, 13 November 1962, Registry no. 22325/62, File 2A, SWP 
26(Revise), British Telecom Archives. 

36. R.J.P. Harvey, minutes, 22 October 1962, FO 371/165249, GP173/39, London PRO. 

37. Satellite working party, minutes of the eighth meeting, 8 November 1962, Registry no. 22325/62, 
File 4, British Telecom Archives. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 167 

be expanded in subsequent phases, and the system might use equipment from other 
countries in a number of different, but complementary orbits. The British stressed their 
belief that as time went by, and as Britain and other nations developed the appropriate 
technological capabilities, they should be allowed to supply the necessary equipment for 
the later stages alongside U.S. industry.'" 

Although U.S. officials talked freely about full international participation, they would 
not agree to references in a British-prepared summary of the talks that mentioned both 
"international cooperation in the provision and development of a satellite system" and 
"the need for decisions about design and construction to be taken jointly by the countries 
participating in the system" lest these be taken as an expression of U.S. policy. In their 
place, the United States suggested weaker phrasing: "broad international participation" 
and "the need for consultation in design and construction matters."'' 

Coming away from these talks. Sir Robert Harvey, the leader of the British delegation, 
had felt that matters now were much more uncertain regarding future U.S. policy.'" 
Ronald Hope-Jones of the Foreign Office was far less pessimistic, however. He recognized 
that U.S. officials had been faced with domestic constraints that prevented them from 
being more forthcoming in their acceptance of Anglo-Canadian views.^' 

British-European Discussions 

The Washington talks were followed by exploratory talks with Europe. The British 
Post Office arranged for these to be under the auspices of the Telecommunications 
Commission of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications 
Administrations (CEPT, French acronym). The meeting was held in Cologne on 12-14 
December 1962. Gilbert Carter of the U.S. State Department informally addressed the 
Telecommunications Commission. Carter outiined U.S. thinking on a "single global sys- 
tem," constructed through "full international cooperation." His presentation strongly 
influenced the subsequent course of CEPT discussions. 

The Europeans expressed support for the U.S. vision of the future development of 
satellite communications. None showed any desire to establish a separate European satel- 
lite system. At the same time, they did not intend to become wholly dependent on the 
United States, and they were intent on playing as full a part as possible in the design and 
management of the single global system, as well as in the construction of its later stages. 
CEPT members rejected as premature French and Swedish proposals for the establish- 
ment of a formal European satellite organization, limiting themselves to forming an ad 
hoc committee of CEPT itself. This committee would study the technical aspects of the 
problem in greater detail and would draft the basis of a common CEPT position ahead of 
talks with the United States.*^ 

Although the CEPT meeting had effectively endorsed the Foreign Office's views, the 
latter nevertheless was unhappy with the choice of CEPT as the focal point for the 
exploratory talks with Europe. The Foreign Office felt that CEPT members, who were 
drawn from the telecommunications authorities of their respective governments, would 

38. Ronald C. Hope-Jones toJ.F. Hosie, 5 November 1962, FO 371/165249, GPl 73/27, London PRO. 

39. Foreign Office brief, undated, circa March 1963. 

40. Ibid. 

41. Ronald C. Hope-Jones, handwritten sleeve note, 5 November 1962, FO 371/165249, GPl 73/26, 
Lx)ndon PRO. Hopejones was sure that "the Americans are now in no doubt about our aspiraUons and know 
that they will have to accommodate them in working out their own plans for a single global system to be achieved 
by full international participation." 

42. Registry No. 22325/62, File 2A, SWP 31 (Final), British Telecom Archives, London. 

168 Creating Systems: Europe 

be insufficiently aware of the political dimensions of the problem/^ Underlying this dis- 
satisfaction was a much deeper difference of approach between the Foreign Office and 
the Post Office. The Post Office objected to the former's desire that the making of satel- 
lite communications policy should be removed from the technical level of the telecom- 
munications authorities," wishing instead to conduct matters according to traditional 
international telecommunications practices in which foreign policy issues had played very 
little part. 

The Foreign Office knew that traditional practices would be inappropriate to the spe- 
cific issues raised by satellite communications. It realized that the Post Office could not be 
relied on to insist on a role for European industry. The Foreign Office also feared that 
French President Charles de Gaulle might want to insist on an independent European 
satellite system and thereby prevent a broader U.S.-European-Commonwealth system 
from taking shape.'^ The Post Office would be unable to handle that situation. By the end 
of 1962, while it had not as yet expressed any preference for an independent system, the 
French government had indicated that it would be treating the whole subject as primari- 
ly a political issue. The French foreign ministry, the Quai d'Orsay, would soon be given a 
prominent role in determining French policy.^" Thus, while the CEPT meeting had indi- 
cated an apparent European readiness to endorse a single global system, with even the 
French representatives signaling their approval, its position had been derived largely from 
technical considerations. The CEPT meeting's views might yet be overruled once 
European governments became more fully aware of the wider political, commercial, and 
industrial issues involved in establishing a satellite organization." 


The round of intergovernmental discussions outlined above was wholly exploratory, 
and no firm decisions were made during its course. Throughout, however. Foreign Office 
officials worked to secure broad acceptance at home and abroad for their own view of how 
international satellite communications should be developed — namely, through a fully 

43. Ronald C. Hope-Jones, minute, 21 December 1962, FO 371/171046, GPl 173/3, London PRO. A 
U.S. State Department official had commented that the Post Office seemed to regard satellites as little more than 
"a telegraph pole in the sky." Hope-Jones stressed that satellite communications had to be thought of as a space 
activity just as much as a communications activity. As a space activity, it was the most likely field in which to secure 
a fruitful international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, which was a major interest of the United 

44. This difference was not unique to Britain. Gilbert Carter of the U.S. State Department had noted 
similar conflicts between the telecommunications authorities and foreign ministries within several European 
countries. The same differences also existed in the United States between the State Department and Comsat, 
with the latter having adopted the working attitudes of the traditional communications carriers. While the State 
Department wanted satellite communications to be handled through fully multilateral negotiations, Comsat was 
pressing for matters to be settled through bilateral agreements. Galloway, The Politics and Technology, p. 103. 

45. Hope-Jones to Butler, 26 November 1962. 

46. When the French learned of the Anglo-Canadian visit to Washington, they assumed that Britain had 
proposed a formal U.S.-Commonwealth collaboration in preference to a European collaboration centered on 
ELDO, resulting in "sadness in high quarters" within the French government (that is. General de Gaulle). Paris 
Embassy Telegram No. 362, 7 November 1962, FO 371/165249, GP173/30, London PRO. 

47. M.D. Butler to Hope-Jones, letter, 7 December 1962, FO 371/165251, GP173/63, London PRO. An 
official of the Quai d'Orsay had told Butler, a member of the British Embassy staff in Paris, that as yet the French 
government had not decided its satellite communications policy, which in any event would have to be approved 
by General de Gaulle. The Quai d'Orsay had no knowledge of a paper tabled at the CEPT meeting by the French 
telecommunications authority. This paper had not been authorized and, as such, could only be regarded as giv- 
ing the personal views of the French telecommunications authority representatives who had written it. 

Bevond the Ionosphere 169 

participatory international cooperative effort in which all members would have a right to 
participate in the design, construction, management, and operation of a single world 
satellite system. 

By the end of 1962, support for the Foreign Office view of how satellite communica- 
tions should develop had been expressed by the Commonwealth and by the European 
telecommunications authorities represented in CEPT. Although a number of British and 
Continental European politicians and industrialists still wanted an independent European 
satellite system with which to compete with a U.S. system, no European government thus 
far had expressed a desire to establish a separate system. At the same time, the Post Office, 
despite its support for the goal of a single system, and despite the obvious foreign policy 
implications of the subject, was anxious to deny foreign ministries any role in the setding 
of policy. Instead, it wished to proceed by the same commercial practices that had gov- 
erned the introduction of telephone cables a few years previously. This attitude was shared 
by other European telecommunications authorities and by Comsat. Nevertheless, during 
the course of 1963, despite such internal opposition, European governments would opt to 
pursue negotiations with the United States on something similar to the full multilateral 
basis that had been recommended by the Foreign Office, thereby rejecting an indepen- 
dent and wholly competitive response to the United States. 

Chapter 13 

Originating Communications 

Satellite Systems: The Interactions of 

Technological Change, Domestic 

Politics, and Foreign Policy 

by Jonathan F. Galloway 

Technological change can have both evolutionary and revolutionary consequences. 
Some participants in the policy process in the 1960s viewed satellite communications as 
ushering in a new era of global peace and understanding. Others viewed the new tech- 
nology as threatening vested interests and creating new entrepreneurial opportunities. 

The policy-making process that led to the establishment of the original communica- 
tions satellite institutions — for example, Comsat, the Defense Satellite Communications 
System, Intelsat, and Intersputnik — ^was an arena of cooperation, competition, and con- 
flict. The actors in that policy process were national and international, and thus the 
process was, in many respects, transnational. 

The rationality of decision making cannot be understood holistically or comprehen- 
sively, but as pragmatic, incremental, and muddled. Dominating decision making was the 
breaking down of national borders and barriers to entry into emerging global communi- 
cations markets. Yet, paradoxically, the creation of advanced defense communications 
satellite systems during the Cold War era reflected the drive to defend the territorial 
integrity of states and military alliances. 

Looking back on the years between Sputnik and the establishment of the Intelsat 
Definite Agreements in 1971, the three themes of the 1972 book by this author' can be 
seen in a slightly different light. Those themes were: (1) revolutionary or evolutionary 
technological change, (2) the breakdown of barriers between making and understanding 
foreign and domestic policy, and (3) models of rationality in policy making appropriate 
to changing contexts, ifhose themes remain very relevant, despite the more colorful and 
even dramatic new vocabulary introduced by the likes of Newt Gingrich, the Tofflers,^ and 
Kenichi Ohmae.' The economic and technological aspects of globalization often are 
thwarted by, or exist in paradoxical and ambivalent contiguity with, the forces of resurgent 
localism and the economic doctrine of neomercantilism. The world is not a tidy place. 
There is chaos, and at the edge of chaos one new world order is not emerging. So it was 
in the formative period of satellite communications. 

1. Jonathan F. Galloway, The Politics and Technology of Satellite Communications (Lexington, MA: 
Lexington Books, 1972). 

2. Alvin and Heidi Toffler, in Creating a New Civilixation: The Politics of the Third Wave (Adanta: Turner 
Publishing, 1994), p. 33, talk about "the Third Wave," the end of nationalism, and the coming of globalization 
and borderless states. 

3. Kenichi Ohmae, The Borderless World (New York: Harper Collins, 1990). 


172 Creating Systems: Europe 

Foreign Policy and Domestic Bargaining^ 

The Communications Satellite Act of 1962 provided for foreign participation "in the 
establishment and use" of a communications satellite system and authorized the corpora- 
tion formed by that act (Comsat) to operate the system "itself or in conjunction with 
foreign governments or business entities."' What form would participation take? The 
statutory language was open ended. Partnership could comprise system use, ownership, 
or research and development. Which particular forms of cooperation would evolve was 
not mandated by the law, yet it was clear that operational relationships would have serious 
consequences for domestic and foreign policy. Thus the substance and the form of United 
States foreign policy goals to promote leadership, international peace and understanding, 
and the rapid establishment of a global system were entangled in satellite communications 
policy decision making and negotiations. 

To cooperate with other countries, it was first necessary for the United States to devel- 
op a cohesive approach toward outstanding issues. Developing that approach entailed a 
gradual working out of the relationship between the U.S. government and Comsat. 
However, early consultations and briefings at the international level occurred at the same 
time as the crystallization of domestic policy. While it is sometimes fashionable for analyt- 
ic purposes to separate domestic and international discussions, in this case the separation 
is not legitimate: foreign policy consultations affected the domestic bargaining position of 
the United States from the spring of 1963 to the summer of 1964. The following is a dis- 
cussion of domestic developments whose consequences affected the formation of U.S. 
policy toward international arrangements for communications satellites. Attention is 
focused on the establishment of Comsat and its relations with the State Department and 
other agencies responsible for foreign policy considerations. 

After the incorporation of Comsat in the District of Columbia, President Kennedy 
appointed thirteen Incorporators on 15 October 1962. Although the Incorporators were 
political appointees, Kennedy combined politics with expertise. The Incorporators chose 
Philip L. Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, as their first chairman on 22 
October 1962. Graham headed Comsat for only three months, resigning in January 1963 
for health reasons. During those three months, however, he strenuously objected to what 
he saw as the interference of the State Department in the international aspects of 
Comsat's plans. The State Department had been briefing European telecommunications 
administrations on American policy, and Graham thought that was Comsat's prerogative. 

This attitude persisted with Graham's successor, Leo D. Welch, who became chairman 
and chief executive officer in February 1963.*^ Welch formerly had been chairman of the 
board of Standard Oil of New Jersey. He was dedicated to the proposition that the private 
sector should determine policy. Welch viewed the State Department not as an ally, but as 
an obstacle. This was also true of his attitude toward the Federal Communications 
Commission (FCC). He charged the FCC with the "invasion of the managerial functions 

4. This section is based on Galloway, The Politics and Technology, pp. 80-104. 

5. The Communications Satellite Act of 1962, sections 201(a)(5) and 305(a)(1). 

6. At the same time, Kennedy appointed Dr. Joseph V. Charyk as president and principal operating 
officer of Comsat. Charyk was formerly under secretary of the Air Force, a businessman, and a university scien- 
tist. A1.SO, in February 1963, Comsat's articles of incorporation were approved. The articles and bylaws may be 
found in Senate Committee on Commerce, Communications Satellite Incorporation Hearings, 88th C^ong., 1st sess., 
pp. 35-39. 

Beyond THE Ionosphere 173 

of the corporation" in connection with the FCC's directions on how the corporation 
should disburse its funds.' 

On the other hand, Comsat's relationship with NASA was always cordial. During its 
incorporation period, when its financial resources consisted only of borrowed funds," 
Comsat depended largely on NASA programs for its research and development. Close and 
constant cooperation thus was a prime necessity for economic survival, but NASA also had 
the responsibility, under the Communications Satellite Act, of cooperating with Comsat in 
research and development. 

On the whole, though, relations between the government and Comsat were somewhat 
less than ideal, as a result not of personality conflicts but of opposing views based on 
differences of opinion. While the government looked forward to close cooperation and 
regulation of Comsat, Welch saw Comsat as a traditional private enterprise. Government 
officials saw Comsat as an entirely different entity, more like a public utility, or even a crea- 
ture of the government. Under the Communications Satellite Act, Comsat was to serve 
public as well as private purposes. Moreover, Comsat was not subject to regulation by the 
FCC, like all other carriers, but by the director of telecommunications management and 
the President, in the exercise of his foreign affairs powers, as well. 

The initial estrangement between the State Department and Comsat was especially 
crucial for foreign policy and foreign relations. Comsat was under no firm statutory 
responsibility to consult with State. Thus, Comsat leaders could choose to follow their own 
individual preferences. The ability of State to persuade Welch of its prerogatives also was 
hampered by the State Department's weak power position in domestic politics. To over- 
come this disability, State tried to convince Comsat that its views were also the Europeans' 
views and that Comsat was not only a domestic corporation, but the chosen instrument of 
American foreign policy. 

While positions between Comsat and the government were not polarized, there were 
four issues whose resolution involved differences of opinion: (1) ownership; (2) the form 
of an international agreement (bilateral or multilateral); (3) Comsat's management role 
(complete or partial); and (4) the role of government in the negotiation of international 
agreements to establish the system. This last issue, in particular, pitted Comsat, some of 
whose officials thought it should undertake negotiations, against the State Department. 

To resolve these issues, Comsat and the State Department agreed in June 1963 to work 
out principles for international participation. During the same month, President Kennedy 
established the Ad Hoc Communications Satellite Group under the joint chairmanship of 
Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and the President's Special Assistant for 
Science and Technology Dr. Jerome B. Wiesner. This group exercised the responsibilities 
of the director of telecommunications management because of a vacancy in that office.® 
A subcommittee, composed of representatives from the Departments of State and Justice, 
the FCC, the Space Council, and the office of the director of telecommunications man- 
agement, kept abreast of Comsat's draft principles for international cooperation. 

Initially, the ideas of the State Department on the problem of foreign participation 
did not coincide with those of Comsat. Welch wished to establish a Comsat-owned system 
through a series of bilateral intergovernmental agreements in which Comsat was the pri- 

7. Leo D. Welch to E. William Henry, Chairman of FCC, letter, 7 August 1963, reprinted as Attachment 
C in U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Communications Satellite Act of 
1962— The First Year, 88th Cong., 1st sess., 1963, H. Rept. 809, p. 19 (hereinafter cited as H. Rept. 809). 

8. In 1963, the FCC permitted Comsat "to borrow $1,900,000 pursuant to a line of credit agreement 
for $5 million entered into by the corporation with 10 commercial banks." H. Rept. 809, p. 11. 

9. House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, H. Rept. 809, p. 29. 

174 Creating Systems: Europe 

mary negotiator. This conception of international cooperation clashed with what State 
viewed as politically feasible and desirable. To State, it seemed that some form of joint 
ownership would be necessary. If other nations were to have no control over the system, 
why should they cooperate with it? 

The State Department also thought that it would be necessary to conclude both inter- 
governmental and commercial agreements. As early as the fall of 1962, William Carter of 
State's Bureau of Economic Affairs considered that negodations on two levels would have 
to be undertaken to expedite the establishment of an international system. On one level, 
discussions between governments would conclude an agreement on the principles of 
international cooperation in space communications; on the other level, technical and 
business accords between the telecommunication administrations of the various countries 
would be arranged. These accords would be analogous to traditional agreements for the 
management of cables and radio. The necessity for the two-level approach was based on 
State's assumption that other nations would be unwilling to join a venture whose polidcal 
and economic consequences were completely removed from their influence. That 
assumption was based on Carter's experience in discussing satellite communications with 
foreign countries in 1962 and 1963. 

The chairman and president of Comsat were not advocates of the same line of rea- 
soning, even though they also had engaged in international consultations. In May and 
June of 1963, they had held meetings with representatives of Western European nations, 
Canada, and Japan.'" While they had not reached any definite conclusions, they favored a 
Comsat-owned, Comsat-negotiated venture. 

Nonetheless, within Comsat, Edwin J. Istvan, who came to Comsat from the Office of 
Space Systems in the Department of Defense (DoD), drafted a set of principles for inter- 
national participation that was nearer to the views of State. Istvan based his set of princi- 
ples on three propositions: 

1. Partnership in the international system could take one of three forms: (a) space seg- 
ment ownership, (b) communication terminal ownership, or (c) mutual aid to assist 
developing nations. 

2. System ownership should be established by an agreement between Comsat and the 
participating foreign entity; the U.S. government would not play a prime role. 

3. Comsat would manage the system to the extent of controlling its own percentage of 
ownership and controlling contract awards. 

Welch rejected Istvan 's proposal; he maintained that the best system would be technically 
integrated and centrally owned and managed. 

The Ad Hoc Communications Satellite Group thought differendy, however. In the 
course of Comsat's discussions with the group, it became evident that the government 
favored an approach closer to that outlined by Istvan. Istvan played a crucial role by point- 
ing to the possibility of separating space segment ownership from station ownership. The 
government accepted this idea, but not the second or third. The government contended 
that it had developed the capability at its own expense and therefore should have a cen- 
tral role in determining how it was to be organized on an international, as well as on a 
domestic, basis. The State Department felt that other nations would not be willing to 

10. Comsat, "Statement Relating to Anticipated Participation by Foreign Governments or Business 
Entities in Such a System," reprinted in H. Rept. 809, p. 6. 

Beyond THE Ionosphere 175 

establish an international agreement for communications satellites along the same lines 
as the cable arrangements. Negotiations between governments would be required to 
lessen fears that communications satellite technology would disrupt existing investments 
before they had been amortized. 

The Ad Hoc Communications Satellite Group objected to Istvan's third idea (Comsat 
management) not so much for its substance as its form. Other nations would be more like- 
ly to join a system, the group pointed out, if Comsat's management role were played down. 
The State Department thought that Comsat's management role should be worked out in 
negotiations rather than proclaimed beforehand. As the United States was the only coun- 
try with developed potential, it would be natural for other nations to agree to Comsat's 
primary position. 

The State Department was especially concerned about presenting a flexible and 
attractive proposal to other nations to promote the establishment of a single global system 
rather than a number of competing systems. Writing in May 1963, the State Department's 
Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs stated that "economic, 
technical, and political considerations all point to the desirability of a single system." A sin- 
gle system would avoid wasteful duplication of expensive satellite and ground facilities, 
would enhance the possibility of "fruitful exchange of communication between all coun- 
tries," would avoid "destructive competition," would facilitate technical compatibility 
between satellites and ground terminals, would assure the best use of scarce frequency 
spectra, and would promote operational efficiency and flexibility in routing messages." 

In light of these advantages, and considering its opinions on foreign attitudes, it is no 
surprise that the State Department objected to Welch's ideas and wished to modify those 
of the preliminary draft drawn up by Istvan. It was of the utmost importance to project an 
image of partnership rather than of paternalism, according to the State Department; oth- 
erwise, U.S. policy would lend weight to Communist charges of exploitation by capitalist 
monopolies and, furthermore, could encourage the establishment of competing systems. 

An integral part of the government's stand for a more flexible negotiating position 
was its contention that Comsat should undertake its discussions with foreign telecommu- 
nications administrations in light of consultations with interested government agencies. 
The implications of various decisions were too far reaching to be considered merely busi- 
ness responsibilities. For instance, the State Department thought that system choice "will 
have important consequences on coverage and burden-sharing, the availability of satellites 
for communication between and vdthin countries, and the cost of ground installations 
which nations will have to build. "'^ In addition, the State Department asserted: 

The establishment of global satellite communications will involve international discussion 
of other questions: the handling of research, development, manufacture, and launch; par- 
ticipation in ownership of ground terminals and satellites; allocation of satellite channels 
between use and users; means of determining the number and location of ground terminals; 
technical standardization; rate-making; assistance to less developed countries; possible pub- 
lic uses of the system by government information agencies of the U.N.; and means of facili- 
tating the exchange of programs between nations.^^ 

11. Richard N. Gardner, "Space Meteorology and Communications: A Challenge to Science and 
Diplomacy," Department of State Bulletin 48 (13 May 1963): 774. It may be asked why competition is beneficial with- 
in the United States and disastrous outside. 

12. Ibid. 

13. Ibid. 

176 Creating Systems: Europe 

Decisions on all these problems would require the closest possible cooperation 
between Comsat and the government, according to the State Department. In many cases, 
the government's role would be regulatory in addition to being promotional. However, the 
difficulties in evolving a working statement of principles continued into the fall of 1963. 

During the summer, Comsat discussed its draft principles of foreign participation with 
representatives of the Departments of State, Justice, and Defense, NASA, and the FCC, as 
well as with the President. As a result of these discussions, Comsat slightly revised its state- 
ment of principles, but not their substance. Welch still insisted that Comsat be the owner 
of the entire system. Comsat also discussed its principles with the common carriers and 
interested committees in Congress, but in the course of these discussions, no significant 
abridgment or change emerged. 

The chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator J. William Fulbright 
(D-AR), expressed dismay that government participation in the preparation of the prin- 
ciples was not more apparent. In reply, Welch expressed the opinion that it was. Other 
committees, however, were not opposed to Comsat's position. Thus, as the time to start 
actual bargaining with other countries approached, the U.S. negotiating position lacked 

It is somewhat surprising that Welch's views had not moved more toward center in 
light of European attitudes. After a June 1963 meeting of potential partners in London, 
the British government sent the State Department an aide memoire in which the British 
related American policy as they understood it. This brief stated that the United States 
favored shared ownership and pluralistic decision making. The statement was approved 
by State and cleared through Joseph Charyk, Comsat's president, before being sent back 
to the British. Yet Welch was still arguing for 100-percent Comsat control. Furthermore, 
as late as September 1963, he (and the carriers) objected to the Istvan proposal of two 
agreements — one governmental, the other between communications entities. Although 
the government, Congress, and the carriers cleared a Comsat draft on negotiating princi- 
ples on 4 October 1963, government clearance did not mean approval. 

At the Extraordinary Administrative Radio Conference in Geneva, an informal U.S. 
policy group was hard at work trying to convince member countries of the International 
Telecommunications Union that the proposed system was not an American monopoly in 
disguise. Later in October, a meeting between the United States and European nations 
produced the harmony in the U.S. position that was lacking as a result of purely domestic 
discussions. The European group, known as the European Conference on Satellite 
Communications (CETS, the French acronym), had formed to negotiate with the United 
States. The CETS nations made it known that they were unwilling to negotiate with 
Comsat on a bilateral basis. This blunt fact of necessity changed Welch's outlook on the 
character of an international system. 

Comsat now agreed to principles that pointed to joint ov^nership and to negotiations 
conducted by a joint American team representing equally the government and Comsat. 
Henceforth, Comsat worked more closely with the State Department at the international 
level. It was agreed, moreover, that a joint negotiating team headed by Welch and Abram 
Chayes, the State Department's legal advisor, would represent the United States in forth- 
coming discussions with European and other nations interested in establishing a global 
communications satellite system. Comsat and the government also agreed on an explicit 
formulation of principles to serve as the U.S. negotiating position. Thus, the stage was set 
for a harmonious approach to establishing a global system. 

Possibly reinforcing close relations between Comsat and the government was the 
appointment of several notable government officials to Comsat positions. In January 
1964, NASA General Counsel John A. Johnson became vice president in charge of Comsat 

Bevdnd the Ionosphere 177 

international affairs. Lewis Meyer, formerly an Air Force deputy for financial analysis, 
became Comsat's finance coordinator. Richard Colino, previously with the State 
Department and the FCC, became an assistant to John Johnson. In addition, Louis B. 
Early and Siegfried H. Reiger, both of whom had been with the RAND Corporation, 
Joined Comsat to serve as chief of economic analysis and manager of systems analysis, 
respectively. While one might have expected the government to play an active role in pro- 
moting staffing of this kind, this was not the case. Former government personnel came to 
Comsat because the firm was anxious to find a nucleus of people with satellite communi- 
cations experience. Such a nucleus could be found only in the government or among cer- 
tain selected carriers and manufacturers, such as AT&T and RCA. 

Foreign Negotiations for International Arrangements 

The space age put the smaller industrialized nations to a great disadvantage com- 
pared to the two superpowers. The allies of the United States in Western Europe and else- 
where could develop their own capabilities in space only through a symbiotic relationship 
with NASA. Cooperative experiments most often were arranged on a bilateral basis. Early 
during the space age, though. Western Europeans saw the advantage of building multi- 
lateral organizations to pool their resources and thus develop a technological base inde- 
pendent of the United States. 

At the intergovernmental level, discussions leading to the establishment of the 
European Space Research Organization (ESRO) began in 1960 and entered into force on 
20 March 1964. The stated purpose of ESRO was "to provide for, and to promote, collab- 
oration among European states in space research and technology exclusively for peaceful 
purposes." The composition of the organization included neutral nations, so the proviso 
"exclusively for peaceful purposes" had more than rhetorical importance. ESRO proposed 
no military projects and restricted its activities to those of scientific importance, rather 
than extending itself into the race for prestige, security, and wealth. A second European 
multilateral space organization was the European Launcher Development Organization 
(ELDO), conceived as a result of Anglo-French discussions early in 1961. The convention 
establishing it entered into force on 29 February 1964. ELDO planned to develop pro- 
grams in meteorology, navigation, telecommunications, and scientific research. 

A nongovernmental, multilateral, nonprofit organization of considerable importance 
was Eurospace. Its membership included 146 aerospace companies, including eight U.S. 
companies as associate members. Formed in 1961 on the initiative of certain British and 
French industrial groups, Eurospace's principal objective was to create a Western 
European industrial complex capable of providing expert assistance and advice on space 
programs to governments, supranational bodies, and private interests.''' 

These three multilateral organizations represented Western Europe's organizational 
response to the space age. They had much wider interests than space communication per 
se. In contrast to the United States, where communications carriers were owned by private 
companies and regulated by the government, the principal communications agencies in 
foreign countries at that time were government administrations. 

The prime source of European experience in international communications, and the 
first organization to cooperate with the United States in such space communications 

14. The following information on ESRO, ELDO, and Eurospace is drawn from Briush Information 
Services, Britain and Space Research (London: Central Office of Information, 1965). See also U.S. Congress, 
Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, International Cooperation and Organization for Outer Space, 
89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, Staff Report, Document 56, pp. 105-17, 123-28. 

178 Creating Systems: Europe 

experiments as Echo and Telstar, was the British Post Office. As early as 1960, the 
Commonwealth Telecommunications Board's technical and traffic meeting discussed 
radio communications via satellite. The British government subsequently invited its 
Commonwealth partners to the Commonwealth Satellite Communications Conference 
held in London in April 1962. According to the British Information Services: 

The Conference recognized that it might be some years before satellite systems could become 
technically feasible, and, having regard to the research and development work being under- 
taken in the United States and elsewhere, that any commercial satellite system should serve as 
large a number of countries as possible and should have maximum flexibility. The Conference 
also acknowledged that satellite communications and submarine telephone cable systems 
would be complementary one to another, and had regard, throughout its discussion, to the pro- 
jected submarine cable developments both by the Commonwealth and by other countries}^ 

While the British viewed satellite communications as a possibility for the 1970s, that 
view did not mean that they were oblivious to the potential economic threat to cables. 
Shortly after the enactment of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962, Britain and 
Canada suggested that exploratory talks be held with the United States on the develop- 
ment of an operational system."^ The Department of State concluded that talks would be 
beneficial, and from 27 to 29 October 1962, representatives of the British Post Office and 
Foreign Office, the Canadian Ministry of Transport and Department of External Affairs, 
and an interagency group headed by the U.S. State Department met. The British and 
Canadians "emphasized their desire to participate fully in the technical development, 
ownership and management of the system."" They thought, however, that another gener- 
ation of cables could be laid before a space communications system would be operational. 
The United States took this opportunity to explain the purposes of the Communications 
Satellite Act, emphasizing the desirability of a single global system as opposed to compet- 
ing national systems. 

The British reported that they were expecting to submit a summary of these discus- 
sions to the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations 
(CEPT, the French acronym) to be held in Cologne in December 1962. The State 
Department thought this move would only relate American ideas secondhand. Therefore, 
the State Department sent an American team to Europe to brief CEPT members prior to 
the December conference. During these meetings, and in the course of the conference, it 
became evident that the European countries were quite excited about participating in a 
joint system. The form of participation was not set out precisely at this time, however. 
More detailed consideration at the international level would have to await the formation 
of specific proposals by Comsat. The role of the State Department was to lay the ground- 
work for these discussions. 

During these preliminary meetings, the principal State Department representative, 
Gilbert Carter, perceived a pattern of internal competition within several European coun- 
tries.'* Past international telecommunications agreements had been negotiated on what 

15. British Information Services, Britain and Commonwealth Telecommunications (London: Central Office 
of Information, 1963), p. 26. 

16. Department of State, Summary of Activities of Department of State Relating to the Communications Satellite 
Act of 1962 (September 20, 1963). Reprinted in H. Rept. 809, pp. 25-27. 

17. Ibid. 

18. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Military Operations Subcommittee, 
Hearings, Satellite Communications — 1964, Part 2, 88th Cong., 2d sess., 1964, p. 661, hereinafter cited as Satellite 
Communications Hearings. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 179 

might be called a nonpolitical basis. European telecommunications administrations had 
bargained with AT&T and other carriers regarding the laying of new cables or the start- 
ing up of radio services. Foreign offices were not involved in these negotiations. However, 
the economic and political consequences of communications satellites were far from pre- 
dictable, so it was natural for foreign offices to become involved. The resolution of ques- 
tions affecting broad national interests could not be left to traditional means. 
Telecommunications experts, on the other hand, wanted to preserve the old way of doing 
business; they believed that diplomats only created difficulties. 

This domestic alignment observed by Carter in certain European countries corre- 
sponded to the pattern within the United States. To one trained in international relations, 
this pattern pointed to the existence of a subculture in the international environment 
whose representatives had more in common with each other on a functional level than 
they did with nationals of their own countries who performed different tasks. The transna- 
tional cohesiveness of communications administrations, though, did not serve as a barri- 
er to participation by others. The introduction of satellite communications into the inter- 
national environment could not be isolated, as was the introduction of telephone cables 
in 1956. Broader national interests were at stake. 

In Great Britain, the Air Ministry, the Foreign Office, and aerospace companies had 
a great interest in space communications. This broad range of interest also was the pat- 
tern in France, West Germany, and other countries. The rationale that had led to the cre- 
ation of Eurospace, ELDO, and ESRO worked in terms of space communications, too. 
Europeans felt that in view of the U.S. technological leadership, their interests would be 
served best if they could speak with one voice rather than many. 

The first concrete manifestation of a European regional approach came at the CEPT 
conference held in Cologne in December 1962. The Telecommunications Committee, 
one of the permanent organs of the conference, set up a committee to: ( 1 ) study all prob- 
lems relating to the organized participation of all interested European countries and the 
operation of a single world network of communications satellites; (2) establish the basis 
of discussions to be held between the CEPT countries and the United States for the estab- 
lishment and operation of a single world network of communications satellites; and 
(3) determine the basis for a world organization to manage such a network. The creation 
of this CEPT committee signified that Europe would take a regional approach to the U.S. 
proposal rather than negotiate a series of bilateral arrangements and that Western Europe 
accepted, in broad outline, the idea of a single world system. 

After the 1962 conference in Cologne, Western Europe proceeded in high gear to 
organize a European say in space communications. At a July 1963 intergovernmental 
meeting in London, GETS set up a structure consisting of steering, organizational, and 
space technology committees. The committee set up by CEPT in December 1962 became 
the advisor to GETS on technical matters. Subsequently, in November 1963, GETS agreed 
that it "should be set up to provide to the extent possible, a counterpart to the U.S. 
Communications Satellite Corp. [Comsat]."'^ 

The existence of a European regional approach set the stage for definitive negotia- 
tions to establish an operational global system. As a prelude to formal meetings, a team of 
American officials from the State Department, the FCC, and Comsat met with technical 
experts from GETS to discuss the outlook for satellite communications in the near 
future.-" The first formal meeting took place in Rome in February 1964. No drafts were 

19. Department of State, "Summary of European Regional Organization in the Communications 
Satellite Field," reprinted in U.S. Congressional Record, 88th Cong., 2d sess., p. 175. 

20. Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 1, p. 316. 

180 Creating Systems: Europe 

tabled at this meeting, but a thorough discussion of the general principles for the pro- 
posed system's framework resulted. 

One of the basic system characteristics agreed on at the Rome meeting was the idea 
of an interim system. The participants felt that establishing a permanent international 
plan would be premature in light of the many economic, political, and technical 
unknowns. Another area of agreement was that Comsat should act as system manager on 
behalf of all the other participants.^' While ownership would be joint, Comsat would 
assure its commanding place by managing the system. On the other hand, Comsat was not 
to have a free hand. The idea of an international steering committee to oversee develop- 
ments was discussed. 

As the Rome conference ended, considerable agreement on all but three major areas 
emerged: (1) the duration of the interim agreements; (2) the allocation of ownership 
quotas; and (3) the voting procedure. The alignment of opinion on these issues pitted the 
United States against CETS. The Europeans wanted a short interim arrangement, while 
the United States wanted one of considerable duration. The rationale of the American 
position was that a longer interim period would provide more experience on which to 
base the permanent arrangement. The United States also wanted a longer interim period 
to retain its initial leadership position. U.S. negotiators feared that the time needed to 
negotiate a permanent arrangement would be so great that it would run counter to the 
mandate of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962. 

The Europeans, on the other hand, hoped to increase their satellite ability at the ear- 
liest possible time and therefore pushed for a short agreement. The idea that short inter- 
im arrangements would lead to an increase in Europe's stature may have been wrong, 
however. As the system was to be global, the increasing number of non-European nations 
in the venture might align to work against the increase in European influence. 
Nonetheless, it was the position of CETS at the Rome conference that the interim arrange- 
ments should last for only about three years. 

The Rome conference also included the ownership issue, which revolved around the 
amount of capital the Europeans wished to invest in the system. The greater the amount 
of a country's capital investment, the greater its percentage of ownership and thus, poten- 
tially, control and rate of return. Expressing their optimism on the prospects for satellite 
communications, the Europeans wished to invest more money than the United States 
thought they should. ^'^ Moreover, the U.S. negotiating team argued for substantial major- 
ity ownership by Comsat. 

The voting issue concerned the formula by which the system's steering committee 
(which came to be known as the Interim Communications Satellite Committee) would 
decide on various matters regarding system management. Because the United States was 
to have majority ownership, it naturally would be able to control the majority of votes 
under the system of weighted voting that everyone envisaged as legitimate. The problem 
lay in the amount of control that the Europeans wanted. Important decisions would 
involve weighted voting encompassing a greater number of votes than the United States 
alone possessed. Any other decision-making formula would destroy the concept of part- 
nership. The issue, therefore, was not weighted voting, but how much of a majority, in 
addition to the votes of the United States, would be required to pass a resolution. The 
United States feared that CETS might vote as a bloc, and that would constitute a veto even 
under a weighted voting arrangement. The Europeans feared that, if they were not given 

21. Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 2, p. 663. 

22. See the testimony of Abram Chayes in Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 1, p. 363. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 181 

some assurance on the criteria for making decisions on procurement, on ground stations, 
or on other matters, their standing as partners would be meaningless. 

These three issues — the duration of the interim arrangements, ownership, and vot- 
ing — dominated the discussions and negotiations that followed the Rome conference in 
February 1964. Additional problems, such as system use by DoD and possible membership 
by the Soviet Union, were deliberated, but they did not impinge directly on the progress 
of events leading to the establishment of the interim system. Those two problems were 
handled at a future date, as discussed later in this chapter. 

The next meeting following the Rome conference occurred in London from 6 to 8 
April 1964. At that time, the U.S. negotiating team advanced two agreements — one gov- 
ernmental and the other commercial. The United States felt that Europe, Australia, 
Canada, and Japan would insist on an intergovernmental agreement rather than a purely 
commercial arrangement as had been characteristic in cable consortia,^^ and therefore 
the U.S. team came prepared with a draft of a simple intergovernmental "umbrella" agree- 
ment.'^* It received tentative approval from the Europeans. 

A period of intense drafting activity then ensued. In May 1964, two meetings took 
place to compare drafts (in London) and to study traffic statistics (in Montreal). The 
London meeting was not a negotiating session, but an attempt to develop language for 
those points on which no substantial differences had arisen. The Montreal meeting on 
traffic projections was important, because ownership in the interim system was to reflect 
the actual distribution of international telecommunications traffic. To measure that traf- 
fic, the 1963 International Telecommunications Union's projections for the year 1968 
served as a base. Those statistics were reexamined to determine what share of total inter- 
national traffic could be handled legitimately by communications satellites. The Montreal 
meeting agreed that the United States had more than 50 percent of that total traffic, but 
did not determine how much more. 

The next meeting to discuss substantive differences occurred in London on 15 and 
16 June 1964. The issues of interim agreement duration and system ownership reached 
resolution. Those attending decided that the planned Interim Communications Satellite 
Committee would submit a report no later than 1 January 1969 to all parties recom- 
mending what changes, if any, should be made in the "Interim Arrangements." An inter- 
national conference would consider the report, but if no changes were agreed to, the 
Interim Arrangements would remain in effect. This compromise gave the United States 
the assurance of at least five years of experience before laying out the definite arrange- 
ments. The Europeans were satisfied because five years was not so long as to prejudice 
their position in the coming decade, when they hoped to have developed a greater tech- 
nological base in satellite communications technology. '•^'^ 

The issue of ownership allocations was settled by giving Comsat a 61-percent undivid- 
ed interest of the space system. One should bear in mind that the ground stations were 
not included, as they were to remain in national hands. The total European participation, 
as well as that of the Canadians, Japanese, and Australians, was 39 percent.^** A difficult 
facet of the allocation decision was how to arrange for the accession of new members to 
the Interim Arrangements. The Europeans pushed to have the United States agree that, 
up to a certain point, all new signatories' shares should come out of the U.S. quota. The 
United States successfully resisted this move; instead, it was decided that everyone's share 

23. Ibid., p. 661. 

24. md., p. 664. 

25. See Article IX of the Interim Arrangements, 2 U.S.T. 1705, T.I.A.S. 5646. 

26. See Annex of Special Agreement, in Interim Arrangements. 

182 Creating Systems: Europe 

would be cut on a pro-rata basis as new participants joined.^' Comsat's quota, however, 
could not fall below 50.6 percent, thus assuring the firm a majority voice during the peri- 
od of the Interim Arrangements. 

At the end of June 1964, only one important issue remained: voting. A conference in 
Washington, D.C., held from 21 to 24 July 1964, resolved that issue. On important deci- 
sions (for example, system choice, rates, ground station standards, or contract letting), 
the Interim Communications Satellite Committee voted by a weighted majority of 
12.5 votes above those controlled by Comsat. All other decisions were by simple majority 
vote, but all parties committed themselves to try to arrive at unanimous agreements. In 
addition, if a decision concerning the budget, the placing of a contract, or the launching 
of a satellite were delayed more than 60 days, a majority vote of only 8.5 above those votes 
controlled by Comsat was required to pass.^" For this system of weighted voting to be 
acceptable to the United States, the CETS had to convince the Americans that it would 
not vote as a bloc; otherwise, the formula gave the Europeans a veto. 

The voting formula was related to the crucial matter of contract awards. Article X of 
the agreement specified that "the Committee and the Corporation [Comsat] as manager 
shall . . . seek to ensure that contracts are so distributed that equipment is designed, devel- 
oped and procured in the States whose Governments are Parties to this Agreement in 
approximate proportion to the respective quotas of their corresponding signatories to the 
Special Agreement." This particular provision was very difficult to negotiate. European 
industry had lobbied through organizations such as Eurospace to pressure their govern- 
ments into negotiating for a plan that would assure them substantial access to the pro- 
curement process.^ The Europeans wanted an allocation for procurement on a national 
basis according to quotas of capital contribution.'" The compromise provision allowed for 
geographical distribution only when competitive bids were comparable in terms of the 
best equipment for the best price. 

It was obvious to most participants, though, that Europe would be able to contribute 
substantially only in the 1970s. Almost the entire initial system would be built by the 
United States. Already, contracts had been signed with Hughes for the Early Bird satellite 
in March 1965, and Comsat had requested design contracts for an initial system from 
Hughes, AT&T, RCA, Space Technology Laboratories (TRW), and ITT. Comsat was to 
make a choice from among these alternatives in the fall of 1965 — long before the 
Europeans would possess the level of technology required.^' Nonetheless, the voting pro- 
cedures and the procurement provision assured the Europeans that they could be part- 
ners in research and development as well as in system use. 

Thirteen governments and Vatican City initialed the "Agreement Establishing Interim 
Arrangements for a Global Commercial Communications Satellite System" on 24 July 
1964. The agreement then was opened for signature by the governments or their desig- 
nated communications entities on 20 August. Thus, a joint venture for space communi- 
cations, known as Intelsat (the International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium), 
came into existence. 

27. Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 2, p. 667. 

28. Article V (e) of the Interim Arrangements. 

29. Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 2, p. 681. 

30. Ibid., p. 100. 

31. Ibid., p. 739. 

Bevdnd the Ionosphere 183 

Foreign Relations and National Security^^ 

The prospect of a shared system between the Interim Arrangements and DoD was laid 
to rest in July 1964, but the issues involved arose again in connection with DoD use of 
Intelsat for administrative traffic. Similarly, these issues surfaced in terms of the NASA- 
Comsat agreement concerning communications for the Apollo lunar program and the 
FCC's "authorized user" decision in the summer of 1966. The use of the Intelsat system by 
DoD involved three questions: (1) government relations with private enterprise (the sub- 
sidy issue); (2) requirements and capabilities of the military communications system; and 
(3) foreign relations matters, such as the promotion of U.S. leadership in communica- 
tions satellite developments. 

In January 1965, a controversy arose as to whether DoD should use its own system for 
both bulk traffic and urgent national security needs. Comsat was afraid that if DoD used 
its own system for all its traffic, the firm's financial future would be dim. The military 
share of all U.S. overseas traffic amounted to 30 percent. Comsat made an offer to DoD 
after the demise of the shared system plan. The new proposal would cost $50 million, but 
DoD turned it down because it cost half as much as the Philco system.'' However, the 
Pentagon did assure Comsat that it would not put all DoD traffic through its own system. 
Dr. Eugene Fubini, Deputy Director of Defense Research and Engineering, estimated that 
"95 or 90 percent of our traffic will not go through the military system."'^ As it turned out, 
though, nvo years later DoD was planning to have a third of its needs met internally and 
two thirds by lease from commercial carriers.'^ By January 1971, in fact, the Defense 
Satellite Communications System (DSCS) was using 44.2 million two-way channel miles, 
62 percent of which were leased from private carriers and the other 38 percent government 
owned. Private carriers thus did not receive the share of business they had anticipated. 

For communications satellite service in particular, the DoD spent $22,746,360 
through commercial carriers in fiscal 1970, while spending $111 million on its own 
DSCS I satellite. In addition, the DSCS II satellite was to have 1,300 full duplex voice chan- 
nels, compared to DSCS I's five to twelve channels. Furthermore, DoD funding for space 
communications rose from $62.9 million in fiscal 1972 to $192 million in fiscal 1973. This 
dramatic increase arose from the start of a new mobile communications satellite system 
called FLEETSAT or the Fleet Satellite communications system.'** 

The interest of this issue lies in evaluating the importance of government assistance 
to Comsat as a means of promoting the foreign policy goals of the Communications 
Satellite Act of 1962. The different roles of the corporation created a paradox. Leaving 
aside the pros and cons of the financial controversy, one can make the following policy- 
oriented observations. If Comsat is a private enterprise, it would be contrary to free enter- 
prise philosophy for the government to assist it, especially if the government could 
provide its own services more economically. On the other hand, if Comsat is viewed as the 
chosen instrument of American foreign policy in space communications, it would be con- 
trary to the national interest to refuse assistance to Comsat, without which its financial and 

32. This section is based on Galloway, The Politics and Technology, pp. 114-18. 

33. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Hearings, NASA 
Authorization for Fiscal Year 1966, 89th Cong., 1st sess., 1965, p. 612. 

34. Ibid., p. 610. 

35. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Military Operations Subcommittee, 
Hearings, Military Communications — 1968, 90th Cong., 2d sess., 1968, p. 25. 

36. Katherine Johnsen, "DoD Details New Satcom System," Aviation Week &" Space Technology, 24 June 
1968, p. 26-27; Philip J. Klass, "New DoD Satcoms Nearing Launch," Aviation Week & Space Technology, 1 1 January 
1971, p. 40-45; "Industry Observer," Aviation Week & Space Technology, 10 April 1972, p. 9. 

184 Creating Systems: Europe 

political image and stature abroad might be damaged. As Comsat was a little of both, one 
can readily understand why the subsidy issue was a matter of both domestic and foreign 

The same general analysis applies to the criticisms voiced against the 1965 contract 
that NASA, through the National Communications System (NCS), made with Comsat to 
provide communications for the Apollo program. President Kennedy established the NCS 
in 1963 to unify and integrate all government communications capabilities. The House 
Military Operations Subcommittee was a forceful political actor on this issue." The Senate 
Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences also addressed the program.'** 
Concerning the subsidy issue, Representative Fernand J. St. Germain (D-RI) observed: 
'This is supposed to be a public corporation, and as I recall, the logic behind this and the 
arguments behind this were we want this to be a public corporation because the 
Government shouldn't be in private business, and here, lo and behold, the Government, 
one agency in itself, is going to buy 45 percent."'" 

Representative William S. Moorhead (D-PA) asked NASA Associate Administrator 
Robert C. Seamans, Jr., whether, when the opportunity to get a regular customer from the 
DoD had disappeared, Comsat had not "turned to NASA to bail them out of a hole?"''" But 
Comsat had not requested the Apollo communications program. NASA, within the frame- 
work of the NCS, had examined all the alternatives and had, on its own, requested the 
NCS manager to contact Comsat.^' 

The U.S. government had documents to prove that its choice was made after all due 
deliberation — as distinguished from the Comsat-DoD case. The House Military 
Operations Subcommittee was especially concerned about the real economies involved, 
however.^^ Herbert Roback, the staff administrator, observed that the Communications 
Satellite Act provided that a separate government system could be created in the nation- 
al interest and that one of these interests was economy.*' He was concerned in particular 
that a large part of the decision-making process was classified. The feeling of the Military 
Operations Subcommittee seemed to be that too much secrecy might cover up hidden 
purposes. The subcommittee was willing to accept government subsidy of Comsat, if it 
served to strengthen Comsat's position in the international bargaining to establish defin- 
itive global satellite communications arrangements after 1969. 

The Military Operations Subcommittee also felt that the secrecy surrounding the 
negotiations between Comsat and the NCS should be removed because the use of taxpay- 
ers' money ought to be the subject of public debate. On the other hand, public debate 
might undermine the purpose of the contract, if in reality its purpose were to subsidize 
Comsat. Foreign governments would recognize that government subsidies to the firm 
were a reality. Perhaps this was the reason for the government's secrecy. Nonetheless, the 
government provided evidence that the contract with Comsat was the most efficient and 
economical alternative available.** The outside observer is left with a partial picture. 

37. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Military Operations, Subcommittee, 
Hearings, Missile and Space Ground Support Operations, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1965, hereinafter cited as Missile and 
Space Ground Support Hearings. 

38. U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Hearings, National 
Communications Satellite Programs, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1966, passim. 

39. Missile and Space Ground Support Hearings, p. 29. 

40. Ibid., p. 35. 

41. Ibid., p. 150. 

42. Ibid., pp. 26-27, et passim. 

43. Ibid., p. 77. 

44. Ibid., pp. 150-51, et passim. The contract as finally negotiated in early 1966 called for a three-year 
contract totaling more than $38.9 million. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 185 

The third and most important problem that arose following the demise of the joint 
Comsat-DoD proposal concerned the "authorized user" issue. Section 305(b)(4) of the 
Communications Satellite Act authorized Comsat "to contract with authorized users, 
including the United States Government, for the services of the communications satellite 
system." One interpretation of this section would allow direct Comsat-DoD contracting 
with no necessity for FCC approval. This interpretation was that of the drafters of the leg- 
islation, according to Edward Welsh, Executive Secretary of the National Aeronautics and 
Space Council. Another interpretation required the FCC to determine who were "autho- 
rized users" and under what circumstances the government would fit this category. DoD 
proceeded on the basis of the first interpretation when, in January 1966, it notified 
Comsat of its need for thirty voice circuits in the Pacific.^"^ The FCC operated on the basis 
of the second assumption when it instituted a public inquiry, "In the Matter of Authorized 
Entities and Authorized Users Under the Communications Satellite Act of 1962" (Docket 
No. 16058), in the spring of 1965.* 

The Defense Communications Agency (DCA), which coordinated separate commu- 
nications systems of the armed services, considered Comsat to be the best carrier. It noti- 
fied the other international carriers of its traffic needs in the Pacific a full three months 
after it had notified Comsat.^' It was not surprising that, after the submission of proposals 
from five carriers, Comsat's proved to be the best. DCA signed a contract with Comsat on 
26 July 1966. It also was not surprising that the FCC, acting as the protector of the status 
quo, decided that Comsat could deal only with the government directly "in unique and 
exceptional circumstances." On 21 July 1966, the FCC issued a "Memorandum, Opinion 
and Statement of Policy" to this effect.^* The FCC believed that Comsat was "primarily a 
carrier's carrier" and judged "that if the Government or others were to obtain (service) 
directly from Comsat, there would be serious adverse affects upon the well-being of the 
commercial telecommunications industry and the general public it serves." 

There was a clear difference of opinion, if not a conflict of interest, between the FCC 
and DoD. One way to resolve the difference would have been for DCA to notify the FCC 
that the circumstances were "so unique and exceptional as to require service directly from 
Comsat." Although DCA felt that way, the statement was not included in the contract; oth- 
erwise, the FCC would not have approved it."*'' 

This issue received congressional attention when the House Military Operations 
Subcommittee stepped in to recommend "that the DCA assign the Comsat contract to one 
or more American international carriers, based upon an across-the-board substantial 
reduction in charges for satellite and cable circuits in the Pacific area."'" All agreed to this 
solution. The cost saving to the government by reducing composite rates on all 128 cable 
circuits leased in the Pacific by the DoD was greater than $6 million per year, in contrast 
to the $1.6 million in savings that would have been realized by dealing directly with 
Comsat for thirty circuits.'*' 

45. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Military Operations Subcommittee, 
Hearings, Government Use of Satellite Communications, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1966, pp. 44-45. 

46. Il^d., pp. 703-05. 

47. Ibid., pp. 45, 81. 

48. Reprinted in ibid., pp. 706-18. 

49. Reprinted in ibid., p. 717. 

50. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Forty-third Report, Government Use of 
Satellite Communications, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1966, H. Rept. No. 1836, p. 7. 

51. U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Government Operations, Seventh Report, Government Use of 
Satellite Communications, 1967, 90th Cong., 1st sess., 1967, H. Rept. No. 613, p. 10. 

1^ Creating Systems: Europe 

One can conclude from this episode that a new technology (communications satel- 
lites) was slowed down to accommodate established interests (cables). Nonetheless, the 
results of incrementalism and the consensus approach produced economic benefits in the 
short run and avoided a sudden, potentially destabilizing decision. The FCC's "authorized 
user" decision showed that the issue of cables versus satellites may never be unequivocal- 
ly resolved. A mix of the two, although slowly modified over time, will persist. By 1972, in 
fact, the new office responsible for coordinating governmental communications, the 
Office of Telecommunication Policy, recognized that the heyday of decision making 
through systems analysis had passed. Rational decisions in areas where one does not have 
all the facts, and where the facts changed from day to day, required day-to-day decision 
making. This conclusion seemed particularly apropos a generation later, as the Joint 
Chiefs of Staff consider substantial reductions in DoD's reliance on communications satel- 
lites because of advances in fiber optic cables.'*^ 

Intelsat and Intersputnik 


Satellite communications and foreign policy problems also entailed strained relations 
with the Soviet Union. During the 1962 meetings of the Legal Subcommittee of the 
United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the Soviets objected to 
the Americans' Project West Ford and the operations of Comsat. Their objections seemed 
to render unlikely the conclusion of an agreement on legal principles governing human 
activities in space. The Soviet draft of legal principles relating to satellite communications 
asserted that space cooperation was incumbent on all states and that the implementation 
of any measure that in any way might hinder the peaceful exploration and use of outer 
space by other countries should be permitted only after prior discussion of and agreement 
on such measures among the countries concerned. The Soviets also declared that all space 
activity should be carried out "solely and exclusively by States."*^ 

The Soviets directed the draft of principles against Project West Ford. Needless to say, 
the United States found it unacceptable, not because it wished to carry out this project or 
others without taking a proper regard for the opinions of humanity, but because it did not 
wish to subject national programs to a Communist veto. The United States objected to the 
declaration that all space activity should be carried out "solely and exclusively by States" 
because it undermined Comsat as a somewhat private entity. By stressing the exclusiveness 
of state responsibility for and control of space endeavors, the Soviets meant to downgrade 
the role of private enterprise or, as the Soviets would call it, exploitative monopoly. Clearly, 
the Soviet draft of principles witnessed the intrusion of the Cold War into what had 
seemed a promising move toward cooperation in the form of the Kennedy-Khrushchev 
letters. Nevertheless, the end of 1963 saw a spirit of agreement. The Soviet Union agreed 
to omit the consideration of the principles they had so strongly urged in the United 
Nations Legal Subcommittee. The General Assembly was able to unanimously pass 
Resolution 1962 on 13 December 1963, but the following year ushered in another period 
of renewed Cold War competition. 

The Soviet Union evolved a position extremely critical of Comsat and Intelsat. The 
Soviets were slow in voicing this antagonism, however, and most likely came to it after a 

52. Pat Cooper and Robert Holzer, "DOD Eyes Satellite Alternative," Space News 6 (7-13 August 1995) : 

53. This section is based on Galloway, The Politics and Technology, pp. 127-32. 

54. United Nations Document A/AC.105/6, 9 July 1962. The Soviet draft also included principles on 
the rescue of astronauts, an agreed point. 

Bevond the Ionosphere 1 87 

period of protracted deliberations. In February 1963, the American Embassy in Moscow 
delivered a note to the Soviet government suggesting that it might be useful to discuss a 
commercial communications satellite system." The Soviets, though, considered such a 
meeting premature. They also had this attitude during the Extraordinary Administrative 
Radio Conference later in the year. 

In 1964, however, the United States initiated concrete negotiations with various 
Western European and other nations. In February 1964, perhaps for reasons of intelli- 
gence, the Soviets expressed an interest in consultations with the United States. They sug- 
gested that a meeting be held in Geneva, during the May and June 1964 meeting of the 
Technical Subcommittee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. 

The United States agreed to this proposal; after all, the Communications Satellite Act 
mandated agreements with other nations. Therefore, in June 1964, a U.S. team of gov- 
ernment and Comsat officials flew to Geneva and briefed the Russian delegation to the 
concurrent London negotiations on the Interim Arrangements in terms of the negotia- 
tions for establishing a global commercial system. The Russians asked a few questions con- 
cerning whether the allocation decisions of the Extraordinary Administrative Radio 
Conference were definitive enough to warrant the engineering and construction of an 
operational system. This line of inquiry reflected the Soviet view that operational arrange- 
ments were premature. Consequentiy, at the end of the meeting, the Soviet delegation 
pronounced that the United States was still in "an experimental phase"; the negotiations 
were "an American or U.S. inspired experimental program," and the Soviet Union was 
"not really very interested in it at this time." They concluded: "We will continue to do 
some experimental work on our own. And perhaps at some time in the future we will get 
together and talk about the whole project again. "^® 

This rather opaque, lukewarm statement did not reflect the ideological opposition to 
private enterprise that characterized Soviet attitudes later in the year. Perhaps an expla- 
nation for this statement lies in the agreement concluded by Dr. Anatoli Blagonravov of 
the Soviet Academy of Sciences and NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden con- 
cerning U.S.-Soviet cooperation in space. By leaving the door open, Blagonravov may have 
expressed an attitude contrary to that of his political superiors. The Soviets might have 
had much to gain from cooperating with the Interim Arrangements, such as the pooling 
of resources and the cutting of costs. For political reasons, though, the arguments of econ- 
omy often have gone unheeded. 

In the fall of 1964, at meetings of the International Institute of Space Law and of the 
United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the Soviet Union and 
other Communist countries expressed strong opposition to Intelsat as a device for trans- 
ferring space communications into the hands of U.S. private capital. In Warsaw, Dr. I.I. 
Cheprov read a paper in which he contended that it was "the duty of lawyers imposed 
upon them ... by resolutions of the U.N. General Assembly to see to it that communica- 
tions by means of satellites become 'available to the nations of the world as soon as prac- 
ticable on a global and non-discriminatory basis. . .' (Res. 1721/XVI)."" Cheprov 
contended that the Interim Arrangements were a means of perpetuating the Comsat 

55. Testimony of William Gilbert Carter in Satellite Communications Hearings, Part 2, p. 665. Much of the 
following information on U.S. discussions with the Soviet Union comes from this source, pp. 665-66, and from 
William Gilbert Carter, interview with Jonathan F. Galloway, Department of State, Washington, DC, 18 March 

56. Testimony of William Gilbert Carter, ibid., p. 666. 

57. I.I. Cheprov, "Some Legal Problems of International Space Communications," Proceedings of the 
Seventh Colloquium on the Law of Outer Space (Vienna: Springer-Verl^, 1965). 


Creating Systems: Europe 

Figure 25 

The Soviet Union created a satellite communications system, called Intersputnik, that rivaled Intelsat. Its technobgical basis 
was the Molniya satellite, shoivn above. Critical of Comsat, the Soviet Union argued at the United Nations and in other forums 
against the role of private enterprise in space communications. (Courtesy of NASA, photo from unnumbered folder, 
"USSR Molniya general," NASA History Office) 

monopoly. Not only would the partners in the Interim Arrangements be victims of 
monopoly domination, but so would the Americans themselves: "It is well known that pri- 
vate enterprise in the United States has a long experience of discriminating against 
Americans themselves, so how can we expect this enterprise to be unbiased and just on 
the international scene?" Cheprov quoted the opponents of the Communications Satellite 
Act as evidence against existing American policy. 

These charges echoed at the meetings of the United Nations Committee on the 
Peaceful Uses of Outer Space held between 26 October and 6 November 1964. The dele- 
gates of Communist bloc countries criticized Intelsat as a profit system for the benefit of 
the undeveloped countries at the expense of the developing nations.'^*' Second, they criti- 
cized the Interim Arrangements as a violation of the principle of sovereign equality 
because of the procedures for weighted voting. Third, they reproached them as an attempt 
to create an organization outside the more appropriate organizational and political frame- 
work of the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union. These 

58. See United Nations Document A/AC.105/PV.26-35 for this and the following ideas. 

Beyond THE Ionosphere 189 

charges, couched in traditional Cold War semantics, were placed in a different perspective 
by the dispassionate analyses of the representatives of the United States and Britain. 

The U.S. representative pointed out that a system based on profit was not necessarily 
exploitative: "Perhaps what we refer to as a 'profit motive' in this country is not as far 
removed as it might first appear to be from what sometimes is translated from the Soviet 
press as being 'profit incentive.' " Thatcher went on to suggest that the Communist dele- 
gates might be mistakenly confusing participation in Intelsat with access: "It is clear from 
the agreements themselves . . . that participation in these arrangements is open to all state 
members of the ITU [International Telecommunications Union] and that whether or not 
a State is a participating member, access to the system is on a completely free and non- 
discriminatory basis to all states." 

Western delegates did not address the Soviet charges at that time. However, several 
considerations in this regard may be mentioned. First, the principle of sovereign equality 
in some arrangements is not incompatible with the principle of weighted voting in others. 
Political treaties are usually based on sovereign equality, although even in that case the 
United Nations Security Council can be viewed as an exception. Functional arrangements 
may involve special formulas reflecting unique situations and responsibilities, as with the 
case of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and Intelsat. Thus, weighted 
voting does not per se lead to exploitation. 

Second, Intelsat was not divorced from the framework of the United Nations or the 
International Telecommunications Union. The Extraordinary Administrative Radio 
Conference of the International Telecommunications Union established the technical 
framework for the formation of a system of communications satellites. The United 
Nations does not discourage but rather — in Chapter VIII of its Charter — encourages the 
formation of regional arrangements whose principles harmonize with those of the 
Charter. It was somewhat strange for the Soviet Union to criticize the United States for car- 
rying on operations beyond the fringe, when the Russians themselves often appeared as 
the consummate devotees of self-insulation. However, the tactic of calling for increased 
international cooperation for others, while reneging on international collaboration itself, 
was a familiar Soviet practice. In fact, what one saw in this instance was another form of 
competition — competition to see who cooperated the most. Because both the United 
States and the Soviet Union continually pronounced their cooperative intentions, it can 
be interpreted as a mark of prestige to have a better record of international collaboration. 
As NASA Administrator James E. Webb stated: "Despite its protestations of peaceful inter- 
ests, the Soviet space program can show no comparable (to our own) engagement in 
cooperative relationships."^^ 

To overcome this cooperative weakness, the Soviet Union proposed its own interna- 
tional satellite communications system, Intersputnik. On 5 August 1968, the Soviet Union, 
Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, and Romania submitted a 
draft agreement for Intersputnik to the United Nations.** The proposal took advantage of 
several apparent weaknesses in the Intelsat approach. In the first place, the only members 
of Intersputnik were states, and the voting procedure was one vote per state. This 
approach obviously had appeal to many countries, for it contrasted favorably with the 
image of Intelsat as being dominated by a private U.S. corporation. Furthermore, the 
Preamble to the draft contemplated the establishment of a system that would provide 
direct broadcasting from satellites. Such a system could bypass the need to establish 
expensive ground stations to relay signals from satellites in space. Thus, if such a direct 
broadcast system were implied, Intersputnik could greatly aid the less developed countries 

59. NASA News, 25 January 1965, pp. 13-14. 

60. United Nations Document A/AC.105/46, 9 August 1968. 

190 Creating Systems: Europe 

by enabling them to circumvent the need to establish a costly communications infra- 
structure. Finally, the Intersputnik draft agreement allowed for more than one interna- 
tional communications satellite system, whereas one of the main criticisms of Intelsat was 
that the signers of the Interim Arrangements committed themselves to a single system. 

Unfortunately for the Soviet Union, the Intersputnik draft had several drawbacks. 
First, during the same month the eight Communist states proposed their own system, the 
Soviets launched their invasion of Czechoslovakia. The callousness of Soviet behavior 
toward their own ally overshadowed any possible propaganda benefits from Intersputnik. 

Another drawback to Intersputnik involved a number of ambiguities in the draft pro- 
posal. One concerned system ownership. Article 3(2) stated that the satellites could be the 
property of Intersputnik or leased to Intersputnik by its member states. As Stephen E. 
Doyle wrote, this provision "could be construed as a Soviet effort to ensure that the USSR 
would be able to provide at least some of the space segment requirements of the interna- 
tional system to the organization on a lease basis with the l^SSR collecting the rent."*^' It 
follows that, in contrast to Intelsat, Intersputnik would be a coordinating umbrella orga- 
nization rather than one that is the sole owner of the space segment. However, similar to 
Intelsat, Article 3(4) of the draft stated that "the ground complex shall be the property of 
the States which have constructed it in their territory." A further ambiguity in the 
Intersputnik proposal concerned the lack of any requirement that there be nondiscrimi- 
natory access for all users — a requirement clearly stated in the Preamble to the Intelsat 
agreement. On the other hand. Article 10 of the Communist draft stated that "the distri- 
bution of communications channels among states members of the organization shall be 
made on the basis of their need for communications channels." Paragraph 2 of the same 
article stipulated, however, that states had to pay for its channels at fixed rates, which was 
certainly a strange, albeit understandable, requirement for a Communist organization 
ideologically committed to the proposition "From each according to his ability, to each 
according to his needs." 

Yet another ambiguity in the Intersputnik draft concerned the organization's execu- 
tive and governing structure. Each state had one vote, and actions required a majority of 
two-thirds; consequently, a minority of member states could stall an initiative backed by a 
simple majority.'^^ In addition, unlike Intelsat, Intersputnik lacked an international execu- 
tive body, but instead had a secretary general whose responsibilities seemed to include 
much executive as well as administrative authority. 

In addition to these ambiguities, a third major drawback to the Soviet Intersputnik 
draft proposal was that no states took the Soviets up on their offer four years after its sub- 
mission. It was true that the draft treaty of 1968 was superseded by a treaty in final form, 
which was deposited at the United Nations on 15 November 1971, but that treaty had not 
come into force by mid-1972. Furthermore, four years later, Intersputnik still had not 
begun actual operations. The Soviet Union had established a domestic system, Orbita, 
which was quite successful and extensive, but their interest in international space commu- 
nications lacked the vigor of their other programs of space exploration and exploitation.**^ 

Nonetheless, the Soviets had plans to launch a synchronous communications satellite, 
to be called Statsionar 1, over the Indian Ocean. This position would allow it to cover pop- 

61. Stephen E. Doyle, "An Analysis of the Socialist States' Proposal for INTERSPUTNIK: An 
International Communication Satellite System," Villanova Law Review 15 (Fall 1969): 83-105, quote on p. 88. 

62. In Intelsat, this problem is overcome by lowering the majority required for passage on important 
matters after sixty days. See Agreement, Article V(d). 

63. For a detailed analysis of the entire Soviet space program through 1970, see U.S. Congress, Senate, 
Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Soviet Space Programs, 1966-70, 92nd Cong., 1st sess., 1971. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 191 

ulated areas between Britain and Japan. Also, the Soviets helped construct ground stations 
abroad in Mongolia, Cuba, the United Arab Republic, and Mali,*^ but it was unlikely that 
the system would have been able to compete on a point-to-point basis with Intelsat. The 
only potential threat to U.S. leadership in Intelsat could have come, but never did, 
through the establishment of a direct-broadcasting system. 

In summarizing the competitive features of U.S.-Soviet relationships regarding satel- 
lite communications, one must emphasize that the United States had a commanding lead 
in exploiting the early technology for purposes of international communications. The 
character of the U.S. leadership was such that it damaged the prestige but not the securi- 
ty of the Soviet Union. The Soviets were not impervious to prestige competition, but 
through 1972, they confined their responses to ideological thrusts and limited interna- 
tional experiments.*^^ 

If the Soviet Union had been able to establish a direct-broadcast television service to 
the newer nations, they might have had at their disposal a powerful instrument of propa- 
ganda and mass communication."*^ In the early years, U.S. policy makers were not blind to 
direct-broadcast possibilities. In fact, considerable discussion of such a system had taken 
place in the United Nations and in Congress.*^' These systems, though, did not come into 
their own until the late 1980s. By then, the Cold War was coming to an end, and compe- 
tition in communications satellites was mainly a market phenomena, not one between 
enemy states. In fact, by the 1990s, Intelsat was facing the prospect of privatization, and 
Intersputnik was thinking of modeling itself on Intelsat's early life history! 


The origins of communications satellite policies, programs, and institutions in the 
1960s and early 1970s set off an avalanche of new communications satellite techniques 
that continue to this day. In some cases, the original players have fallen victim to their own 
successes, or they are making their way with the same names in increasingly deregulated, 
privatized, and interconnected global networks and webs. Comsat still exists, but events 
have overtaken its foreign policy goals. The Defense Satellite Communications System is 
ongoing, but its role after the Cold War has changed. Intelsat exists as an organization set 
up by treaty, but it may split up into two or more parts. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union has 
disintegrated, but Intersputnik continues to operate while fashioning itself on the model 
of the old Intelsat. 

What lessons does the political scientist draw from the history of communications 
satellites over the last three decades? Do we really have twenty-twenty hindsight now, or do 
our glasses filter out certain perspectives that are crucial for understanding technological 

64. Thomas L. Shillinglaw, "The Soviet Union and International Satellite Telecommunications," 
Stanford Journal of International Studies 5 (June 1970): 199-226. 

65. On 29 November 1965, color television experiments between the Soviet Union and France began 
using the French color television system and the Molniya satellite. Spaceflight 8 (January 1966): 1. 

66. Just how powerful is a matter of conjecture. Mass media without the use of person-to-person com- 
munications may be a poor tool for manipulating attitudes and behavior. For a spectrum of opinion, see Ithiel 
de Sola Pool, The Mass Media and Their Interpersonal Social Functions in the Process of Modernization," in 
Lewis Anthony Dexter and David M. White, eds., People, Society, and Mass Communications (New York: Free Press, 
1964), pp. 429-43. 

67. In 1968, the General Assembly established a Working Group on Direct Broadcast Satellites as part 
of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Also, see U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, 
Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on National Security Policy and Scientific Developments, Hearings, 
SateUite Broadcasting: Implications for Foreign Policy, 91st Cong., 1st sess., 1969. 

192 Creating Systems: Europe 

change, domestic policy, foreign relations, and national sovereignty at the dawn of the 
twenty-first century? 

From the vantage point of today, the themes stressed in the author's 1972 work on 
communications satellites remain salient and even more pronounced. The importance of 
technological change is manifest, and the distinction between evolutionary and revolu- 
tionary change pointed out in 1972 is still probably correct. A technological change can 
be evolutionary — for instance, the move from geostationary satellites to low-Earth-orbit 
satellites. Yet there can be revolutionary economic impacts on industry structure and no 
political effects — say, in terms of the balance of power or the national interest. In the 
main, the consequences of technological innovation in communications satellites have 
been evolutionary, and it is certainly ironic that cables, not coaxial but fiber optic, are 
making a comeback. 

From another perspective, policy making in a fast-changing environment may be 
shocked and compromised by the system's changing structure. Such an environment will 
affect rationality in decision making, as well as the boundaries of political systems — how 
wide they are and how porous and tenuous they are. Another effect will be on democra- 
cy. If globalization processes become encoded in the technological logic of global com- 
munications satellite systems, then locally based checks and balances and systems of 
accountability may be undermined, or put under great stress. However, checks and bal- 
ances and accountability may reappear at the global level in terms of market-based incen- 
tives and the requirements of international regimes. 

In today's world, we see great forces pushing in both directions — toward global eco- 
nomic logic and toward local political control. Nationalism seems to be both resurgent 
and atavistic. We live in a time of paradoxes and ambivalences. Communications satellite 
technology is one small part of this total technological, economic, and political reality. It 
is a microcosm, and its history and its lessons point to a better understanding of our age, 
which may be called "an age of ages" — the space age, the nuclear age, the computer age, 
and the information age. One must not forget, too, that this is the age of democracy. 
Perhaps that is the most pertinent lesson of the history of communications satellites: if the 
technology has globalizing effects, eventually felt at the level of the individual, then com- 
munications satellites, as part of the worldwide communications revolution, will be part of 
the world movement toward democracy. 

Part III: 

The Unfolding of the World System 

Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Chapter 14 

The Pursuit of Equality: The Role 

of the Ionosphere and 

Satellite Communications in 

Canadian Development 

by Bert C. Blevis 

Canada is a vast country. It spans six time zones, and much of its area is dominated by 
rugged terrain and inhospitable cHmates. As a resuh, large stretches of the country are 
sparsely populated. Most of the population is concentrated in a thin strip along the U.S. 
border, and even that is clustered heavily in the most southerly portion of the country, 
extending from Windsor, Ontario, in the west to Montreal, Quebec, in the east. Until the 
advent of satellite communications, the great rural and remote expanses of the country 
lacked access to telecommunications and other services taken for granted in the southern 
urban areas. Well before satellites arrived on the scene, however, Canadian researchers 
vigorously pursued other avenues of communication to bring the nation together through 
the enhancement of long-distance communications. 

Early Ionospheric Studies 

Canada's early interest in the ionosphere stemmed from two sources (Table 1 ) . One 
was to understand the phenomenon that gives rise to the beautiful displays of auroral bore- 
alis (the northern lights), so often visible over Canada. The auroral borealis is especially 
prevalent during certain parts of the solar cycle and at particular times of the year. The 
other source was the attempt to understand the vagaries of the ionosphere — particularly 
the causes of disturbances and blackouts experienced in shortwave radio propagation. 

Indeed, the early lunar radar work carried out in Canada in the late 1950s was not so 
much to look at the Moon as a means of communication, or even to explore its surface. 
Rather, it was to use the Moon as a reflecting (or, more correctly, a scattering) object 
beyond the ionosphere to study the effects of the Earth's ionospheric layers on electro- 
magnetic radiation passing through them, including the Faraday rotation of the plane of 
polarization. The historic message from U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to Canadian 
Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to commemorate the opening of the Prince Albert 
Radar Laboratory on 6 June 1959 was transmitted via the Moon. Canadian ionospheric 
concerns during the 1950s also extended to the problems of using radar to detect any mis- 
siles that might pass over the country's polar region. 

This early attention to the Moon, as well as contemporary studies of reflections from 
meteor trails, led to a predilection to consider passive satellites, particularly for secure 
communications. Other passive communications were investigated, including large 
reflecting balloons such as Echo, clouds of dipoles placed into the Earth's orbit (Lincoln 
Laboratory's Project West Ford) , and various proposals for multifaceted satellites. 


196 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Table 1 

Canada's Early Ionospheric Programs 

Date Program 

1839 First magnetic observatory established at the University of Toronto 

1882-83 First International Polar Year; measurements of magnetic and auro- 

ral phenomena 

12 December 1901 Marconi's transatlantic transmission to Signal Hill, Newfoundland 

1932-33 Second International Polar Year; field stations established in north; 

eclipse measurements 

1941 lonosonde installed north of Ottawa by the National Research 


1947 Formation of the Canadian Defence Research Board; continuing 

ionospheric studies at the Defence Research Board's 
Telecommunications Establishment 

4 October 1957 Sputnik I, the first artificial Earth satellite (Soviet Union), 

International Geophysical Year 

January 1958 Explorer I, the first American satellite; discovery of the Van Allen 


July 1958 Satellite proposals invited by the Space Science Board of U.S. 

National Academy of Sciences 

31 December 1958 Canadian proposal submitted for topside sounding satellite 

11 March 1959 NASA approval in principle for topside sounder 

6 June 1959 Lunar communications demonstration at the opening of the Prince 

Albert Radar Laboratory 

16 December 1959 Letter of Agreement between NASA and the Defence Research 
Board for Alouette 

1960 Echo I 

29 September 1962 Alouette 1, Canada's top-side sounder and the first satellite by other 
than the Soviet Union or the United States 

1962 Telstar I, the first transatlantic television via satellite 

June 1962 First Black Brant IIIA atmospheric research rocket launched 

Beyond the Ionosphere 


Table 1 (continued) 



23 May 1963 

August 1963 

29 November 1965 
February 1967 

30 January 1969 
August 1969 
1 September 1969 
16 May 1970 

31 March 1971 
20 April 1971 

November 1972 

April 1973 

May 1975 

17 January 1976 

15 December 1978 

September 1987 

International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies (ISIS) program, 
through a Canada-U.S. memorandum of understanding for a joint 
program to launch four additional satellites 

Agreement with NASA for Canadian participation in the testing of 
experimental communications satellites, including a commitment to 
build a ground station 

Alouette 2 

Recommendation that the prime Canadian objective in space tech- 
nology be its applications to domestic telecommunications and 
resource survey 


Formation of the Department of Communications 

Establishment of Telesat Canada 

First aircraft-to-aircraft voice transmission using the sixth Lincoln 
Experimental Satellite (LES-6) 


NASA and the Canadian Department of Communications sign an 
agreement to begin the Communications Technology Satellite 
(CTS) program. 

Anik Al, the first domestic geostationary communications satellite 


Anik A 

CTS/ Hermes, the first high-powered, Ku-band satellite and the 
world's most powerful to date 

Anik B, the first commercial hybrid satellite, operating in both the 
C-band and the Ku-band 

Emmy Award to NASA and the Department of Communications for 
the Hermes contribution 

198 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 


When Sputnik I was launched on 4 October 1957, scientists at Canada's Defence 
Research Telecommunications Establishment were among the first to monitor its trans- 
missions and determine its orbit.' In July 1958, the Space Science Board of the U.S. 
National Academy of Sciences invited proposals for scientific experiments to be conduct- 
ed with satellites. Canadian scientists were eager to participate. On the last day of 1958, 
the Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment submitted a formal proposal to 
the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for a top-side 
sounding satellite. NASA accepted the proposal in principle on 11 March 1959, and the 
project (known as Alouette 1) became a joint undertaking between Canada and the 
United States through a letter of agreement between NASA and the Defence Research 
Board on 16 December 1959. 

With the launch of Alouette 1 on 29 September 1962 (just before midnight 
Vandenberg Air Force Base local time on 28 September) , Canada became the third coun- 
try in space after the Soviet Union and the United States. The stage was now set for the 
unfolding of Canada's space program.'^ However, the government's decision not to devel- 
op satellite launch facilities in Canada restricted the space program to projects achievable 
only through international arrangements with foreign space agencies, such as NASA and 
the European Space Agency. 

The principal experiment on the Alouette spacecraft was the ionospheric topside 
sounder, whose two rigid dipole antennas extended twenty-three meters and forty-five 
meters tip to tip, respectively. Other experiments included the measurement of cosmic 
radio noise, very-low-frequency radio emissions, and energetic charged particles. 

Within a short time after the successful launch of Alouette 1, Canada initiated nego- 
tiations with NASA for additional scientific satellites. On 23 May 1963, those negotiations 
led to the creation of the International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies (ISIS) program, 
consisting of Alouette 2, ISIS 1, and ISIS 2. Alouette 2 (launched 29 November 1965) was 
a modified version of Alouette 1 and included a probe experiment and an expanded 
sounder frequency range. The two ISIS spacecraft (launched 30 January 1969 and 
31 March 1971, respectively) incorporated additional equipment furnished by the United 

An international working group, called the Topside Sounder Working Group (but 
later renamed the ISIS Working Group), was set up in 1960 to provide guidance to the 
program. In addition to the United States and Canada, Australia, Britain, Finland, France, 
India, Japan, New Zealand, and Norway became involved in the program. 

Before Alouette 1, scientists had virtually no direct knowledge of the ionosphere 
above approximately 300 kilometers. The Alouette satellite instruments provided infor- 
mation on electron distributions, their temporal and spatial variations, their irregularities 
and resonances, the influence of incoming charged particles, cosmic and solar noise, 
polar cap absorption, solar wind penetration, and ion species in the Earth's atmosphere. 

The two Alouette and two ISIS satellites were extremely complex spacecraft for their 
time. They set records for longevity and established a precedent for a long history of inter- 

1. For an interesting history of the Canadian space program, see Doris H. Jelly, Canada: 25 Years in 
Space (Montreal: Polyscience Publications, in cooperation with the National Museum of Science and Technology, 

2. For details of the development of the Alouette, ISIS, and Hermes satellites, as well as a number of 
interesdng anecdotes, see Theodore R. Hartz and Irvine Paghis, Spacebound (Ottawa: Government of Canada, 
Department of Communications, 1982). 

Beyond the Ionosphere 199 

national cooperation in space. Alouette 1 was designed to have a lifetime of one year. In 
private, project scientists hoped to gain at least a month of data from Alouette 1, but in 
reality, the satellite provided data for more than ten years. The ISIS satellites remained 
operational for almost twenty years. In 1987, Alouette 1 was selected as one of the ten 
greatest engineering achievements in Canada in the past century; in 1993, the Institute of 
Electrical and Electronic Engineers designated the Alouette/ISIS program an 
International Milestone of Electrical Engineering. Scientists from ten nations published 
approximately 700 scholarly papers that described the results of the Alouette/ISIS pro- 
gram. This was perhaps the most prolific of any such program. 

A fourth satellite in the ISIS program (ISIS-C) was to have been launched under the 
agreement with the United States, but it was abandoned in 1969. Canadian space policy 
had been undergoing some fundamental changes in the previous years. In 1963, for exam- 
ple, the Canadian government decided that the technology that had been resident in the 
Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment until then was to be transferred to 
industry during the ISIS program as a means of augmenting the Canadian industrial space 
capability. Then came a February 1967 government report (the so-called Chapman report), 
which recommended redirecting space technology research to specific applications — in 
particular, communications and remote sensing. The objective was to place elements of 
space technology vital to Canada under Canadian control, as well as to foster a Canadian 
space industrial capability to meet Canadian needs and to address export markets. 

A Global First 

Even armed with all the new knowledge about the ionosphere, the emergent com- 
munications satellite technology offered the only practical solution for providing reliable 
telecommunications — particularly radio and television — to the 20 percent of Canadians 
who had no possibility of sharing in the communications and information revolution. To 
achieve the Canadian government's highest objective of providing basic telecommunica- 
tions services to all, Telesat Canada — initially half owned by government and half by the 
private sector — ^was created on 1 September 1969.' 

The launch of Anik A in November 1972, and the inauguration of service in 1973, 
placed Canada in the forefront — the first country in the world to implement a domestic 
commercial geostationary satellite system. To complete the initial system, two other Anik 
A satellites were launched, one in April 1973 and the other in May 1975. Similar to other 
communications satellite systems of the time, all three Anik A satellites operated at 
C-band. The Anik B satellite, launched 15 December 1978, was intended to provide 
Telesat Canada with capacity as a backup for the Anik A series. 


After a long series of discussions, the Canadian Department of Communications and 
NASA signed an agreement on 20 April 1971 to undertake a joint program called the 
Communications Technology Satellite (CTS) . The CTS was to replace the fourth space- 
craft originally planned as part of the ISIS program. Because of the number of 
technological challenges that had to be overcome, however, the CTS program was not 

3. Hon. CM. Drury, A Domestic Satellite Communications System for Canada (Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 
1968), which was a Canadian government white paper, argued that "a domestic satellite communications system 
is of vital importance for the growth, prosperity and unity of Canada, and should be established as a matter of 

200 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Figure 26 

Launched in 1972, Anik A (above) made Canada the first country ever to inaugurate a domestic commercial geostationary 
satellite system. (Courtesy of NASA) 

Beyond the Ionosphere 201 

without its detractors. Nonetheless, the Canadian government agreed to take the lead and 
undertake the development work at its Communications Research Centre. This center 
originally had been the Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment; it was 
transferred to the Department of Communications in August 1969 and renamed. 

The objective of the CTS program was to advance the state of the art of communica- 
tions satellites by developing a system capable of operating at higher powers and higher 
frequencies than existing systems. Such a system thereby would make direct communica- 
tions possible with low-cost (at the time) ground stations in individual homes and com- 
munities. The program also aspired to develop and flight-test a three-axis stabilization 
system to maintain accurate antenna pointing and to conduct communications and 
technological experiments with the system. An additional objective of the CTS program 
was to improve Canadian industrial capability in the design and manufacture of spacecraft 
and satellite subsystems. The prevailing political environment influenced the communi- 
cations experiments, focusing on an evaluation of the economic, social, and political 
impact of the introduction of new services in the future. Those services included the pro- 
vision of medical and educational two-way television services to remote areas, community 
interaction, the delivery of government services, and direct-television broadcasting. 

Canada designed, built, and operated the CTS spacecraft. The United States provid- 
ed the high-power traveling-wave tube for the satellite transponder, as well as test and 
launch services for the spacecraft and rocket. It is interesting to note also that the origi- 
nal Canadian proposal included a supplementary L-band mobile satellite communica- 
tions payload. That payload was dropped in favor of the higher frequency (twelve- and 
fourteen-gigahertz) communications package when it was learned that the launch vehicle 
provided by the United States precluded the inclusion of both systems. 

Canada and the United States shared the use of the satellite equally. Subsequently, in 
May 1972, the European Space Research Organization (now the European Space Agency) 
also participated in the CTS program. The Europeans agreed to provide several compo- 
nents for use in future European communications satellites, including a twenty-watt travel- 
ing-wave transmitting tube, in return for developing the solar arrays at no cost to Canada. 

The CTS, launched 17 January 1976, was renamed Hermes in Canada when service 
began on 21 May 1976. The inauguration of service included a one-hour color television 
teleconference between NASA's Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and the 
Communications Research Centre in Ottawa, Ontario. Canada chose the name from 
classical Greek mythology. Hermes, the son of Zeus, was considered to be the god of 
science and invention, as well as eloquence and dreams. The Hermes spacecraft was the 
most powerful civilian spacecraft (as measured by effective isotropically radiated power) 
yet launched. Designed to endure two years in space, Hermes operated for almost four 
years before it was lost. 

During those four years, the satellite fulfilled all of its objectives. Hermes performed 
various communications experiments that proved its usefulness in providing medical and 
educational services to remote areas ("telemedicine" and "tele-education"), in promoting 
community interaction, in delivering government services, and in demonstrating direct- 
to-home television using very small reflector antennas. It is believed that the first ever 
direct-to-home satellite television broadcast was that of a Canadian hockey game in May 
1978. The broadcast was transmitted via the Hermes satellite to a sixty-centimeter dish 
antenna set up at the home of a Canadian embassy official in Lima, Peru, during a recepn 
tion for an international meeting. In August 1979, Hermes, repositioned over the Pacific 
Ocean, served in a joint satellite communications workshop with Australia and in a 
demonstration of direct-television broadcasting in Papua, New Guinea. Subsequently, con- 
trol of the satellite was lost, and all communications ceased. 

202 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Nonetheless, for Hermes's accomplishments in the field of television broadcasting 
and its applications, the Communications Research Centre and NASA jointly received an 
Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1987. Because 
of the need to have some back-up and follow-on capability for Hermes in the event of fail- 
ure of any one of its many innovative subsystems, the Canadian government arranged with 
Telesat Canada to include fourteen-gigahertz uplink/ twelve-gigahertz downlink transpon- 
ders on its Anik B satellite. As a result, Anik B was the first satellite in the world to oper- 
ate in both the C-band and the Ku-band. 

Mobile Satellite Communications 

As early as 1967, Canadian researchers were involved in trials with the United States 
on the use of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) satellites for mobile services primarily for 
defense operations. The use of UHF frequencies on U.S. experimental military satellites, 
such as the LES-5, LES-6, and TACSAT, offered the possibility of small, lightweight mobile 
or transportable terminals. Several demonstrations were carried out in land, maritime, 
and aeronautical environments. The world's first direct aircraft-to-aircraft voice commu- 
nications via satellite took place on 16 May 1970 between two Canadian Department of 
National Defence aircraft. 

The Canadian Department of National Defence continued to use U.S. satellites; 
Canada never implemented a military UHF mobile satellite system. Nonetheless, the early 
Canadian efforts led to a proposal, although never implemented, to include a UHF 
transponder on the Hermes spacecraft. The idea of a Department of National Defence 
MUSAT (Mobile UHF Satellite) eventually resulted in a proposal for a civilian mobile 
communications satellite called MSAT. Ultimately, with the encouragement of the 
Canadian government, and in cooperation with NASA, Telesat Canada and several 
American companies (which later formed the American Mobile Satellite Corporation) 
undertook the development of two satellites to provide mobile satellite services on a com- 
mercial basis in North America. Later, the responsibility for Canada's involvement in the 
project was transferred to a private firm, TMI Communications. 


The rest of Canada's communications satellite program is more recent history. 
Canada was one of the founding nations of the satellite-aided search-and-rescue system 
known as COSPAS/SARSAT for Cosmicheskaya Sistemya Poiska Avariynych Sudov (Space 
System for Search of Distressed Vessels in Russian) and Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided 
Tracking, which became an almost instant success after the launch of the first spacecraft 
in 1982. Researchers at the Communications Research Centre participated in the 
European Space Agency's large, high-powered, multipurpose Olympus communications 
satellite. These researchers continue to make major contributions to the development of 
new communications technologies, to carry out studies on the next generation of satellite 
communications systems, and to explore new ways of providing access for all Canadians to 
the new multimedia information superhighway. 

Telesat has gone on to launch its Ku-band Anik C, C-band Anik D, and the hybrid 
Anik E series of satellites. Anik E made history when both of the two other satellites failed 
during an unusual solar event. Telesat subsequently has brought them back to full opera- 
tion. Mobile communications satellite studies at the Communications Research Centre 

Beyond the Ionosphere 203 

have led to the manufacture of American Mobile Satellite Corporation's AMSC-1 satellite, 
which was launched in 1995, and of MSAT-1, launched on 20 April 1996 and placed in 
geostationary orbit at 1075° West. 

Teleglobe, Canada's international telecommunications carrier, is a signatory to and a 
major player in Intelsat and Inmarsat. It also has become a partner in the Orbcomm Little 
LEO (low-Earth orbit) satellite and now is participating with TRW in the Big LEO satellite 
program called Odyssey. 

Canada, spurred on by the necessity of providing for the social, economic, and polit- 
ical needs of a population widely dispersed over a vast, and sometimes inhospitable, 
terrain, and subject to a harsh climate, played a major role in the exploration of the 
ionosphere and in the early international development of satellite communications. It has 
maintained its leading role through succeeding generations of new satellites and techno- 
logical progress. Canada can be expected to remain at the forefront of satellite commu- 
nications technology well into the future. 

Chapter 15 

The Long March to Space: Satellite 
Communications in China 

by Zhu Yilin 

China entered the satellite field in 1965 and has been developing applied satellite sys- 
tems for economic, scientific, technological, educational, and cultural uses since the 
launch, on 24 April 1970, of the first Chinese satellite, Dong Fang Hong-1 (DFH-1), 
named for the Maoist victory song. By the end of 1996, China had launched thirty-seven 
of its own satellites, including sixteen returnable remote-sensing satellites, seven commu- 
nications satellites, two meteorological satellites, and twelve scientific and technical exper- 
imental satellites, as part of three applied satellite series: low-Earth-orbit returnable 
remote-sensing satellites, geostationary Earth orbit communications satellites, and Sun- 
synchronous orbit meteorological satellites (see Table 2). This chapter describes the 
development of, and the benefits derived from, China's communications satellites. 

China entered the field of satellite communications to improve the relatively under- 
developed state of its communications infrastructure. In June 1970, the Chinese Academy 
of Space Technology proposed a preliminary technical plan for a communications satel- 
lite. Not until February 1975, however, did the State Council of China approve the 
"Report on the Development of Chinese Satellite Communications," which had been out- 
lined by the State Planning Commission and the National Defense Science and 
Technology Commission. Approval from the State Council of China meant that the task 
of developing the country's satellite communications was incorporated in state planning. 

Experimental Communications Satellites 

China launched its first experimental communications satellite (the so-called Test 
SateIlite-1) on a Long March 3 rocket on 29 January 1984, placing it in a nonsynchronous 
orbit. Subsequently, the country launched its first geosynchronous experimental commu- 
nications satellite on 8 April 1984 and parked it in an orbit at 125° E above the equator 
(see Table 2). The satellite began its trial operation in May 1984 and subsequently has 
operated normally. It provides China with a variety of services, such as communications in 
remote districts; the management of water conservation and electric power; telephone, 
telegram, facsimile, picture, and data transmission; and the broadcast of a standard time 
and standard frequency. Its actual lifetime in space has greatly exceeded the expected 
three years. 

The DFH-2 Operational Satellite 

China also has placed into geostationary orbit four operational communications satel- 
lites parked at 110.5° East (E), 103° E, 87.5° E, and 98° E above the equator, respectively. 
There are two kinds of these satellites: the DFH-2 (Dong Fang Hong-2) , which is basically the 
same as the experimental satellites, and the four DFH-2A satellites, which are modified ver- 
sions of the DFH-2. 


206 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Figure 27 

An Intelsat IV (F-8) satellite relayed live television pictures of President Nixon 's historic 1 974 trip to China. At the time, China 
sought access to the Intelsat system, but claimed it would not join as long as Taiwan was a member. In 1974, eighty-seven 
countries were Intelsat members. (Courtesy of NASA) 

The DFH-2 satellite was launched into geostationary orbit (103° E above the equator) 
on 1 February 1986. It carried two transponders and a domestic beam antenna. Its uplink 
and downlink communications frequencies were 6,225 to 6,425 megahertz and 4,000 to 
4,200 megahertz, respectively. The antenna beam can cover the whole territory of China, 
thereby providing effective communications to outlying districts, such as the Xinjiang and 
Xizang Autonomous Regions, frontier stations, and islands. In April 1986, the DFH-2 satel- 
lite took over broadcasting services from the experimental communications satellite, and 
on 5 February 1987, it began providing fifteen channels for foreign program broadcast- 
ing from the Central People's Broadcasting Station. The number of channels available for 
foreign broadcasting increased to thirty on 30 September 1987. The DFH-2 satellite 
remained in continuous use until 8 July 1989. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 


Table 2 

China's Launched Satellites up to August 1995 

Launch Date 

Satellite Name 

Launch Vehicle Brief Remarks 

24 April 1970 Dong Fang Hong-1 Long March 1 

3 March 1971 Shijian-l Long March 1 

26 July 1975 TTS-1 
26 November 1975 


16 December 1975 TTS-2 

30 August 1976 
7 December 1976 
26 January 1978 
20 September 1981 







8 April 1984 ECS 

12 September 1984 RRSS-6 

Long March 2 
Long March 2 
Long March 2 

9 September 1982 RRSS-4 Long March 2 

19 August 1983 RRSS-5 Long March 2 

29 January 1984 Test-Satellite-1 Long March 3 

Long March 3 

Long March 2 

Broadcast music "Dong 
Fang Hong" 

Operated for eight years in 

All onboard systems operat- 
ed normally 

Operated in orbit three 
days before landing 

All onboard systems operat- 
ed normally 

All onboard systems operat- 
ed normally 

Operated three days and 
then landed 

Operated three days and 
then landed 

Three satellites launched by 
one rocket for the first time 

Operated five days and then 

Operated five days and then 

Carried out communica- 
tions, operational, and tech- 
nical tests 

Stationed at 125° E above 
equator on 16 April 

Operated five days and then 

208 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Table 2 (continued) 

Launch Date 

Satellite Name 

Launch Vehicle 

Brief Remarks 

21 October 1985 


Long March 2 

Operated five days for land 
survey and then landed 

1 February 1986 


Long March 3 

Stationed at 103° E above 
equator on 20 February 

6 October 1986 


Long March 2 

Operated five days for land 
survey and then landed 

5 August 1987 


Long March 2 

Operated five days and then 

9 September 1987 


Long March 2 

Operated eight days and 
then landed 

7 March 1988 


Long March 3 

Stationed at 87.5° E above 
equator on 23 March 

5 August 1988 


Long March 2 

Operated eight days and 
then landed 

7 September 1988 


Long March 4 

Achieved predicted goal 

22 December 1988 


Long March 3 

Stationed at 110.5° E above 
equator on 30 December 

4 February 1990 


Long March 3 

Stationed at 98° E above 
equator on 14 February 

3 September 1990 


Long March 4 

Transmitted cloud pictures 
to Earth and measured 


atmospheric density 

5 October 1990 


Long March 2 

Operated eight days and 
then landed 

28 December 1991 


Long March 3 

Failed to achieve preset 
orbit because of launch 
vehicle failure 

9 August 1992 


Long March 2D 

Operated sixteen days and 
then landed 

6 October 1992 


Long March 2C 

Operated seven days and 
then landed 

Beyond the Ionosphere 


Table 2 (continued) 

Launch Date 

Satellite Name Launch Vehicle 

Brief Remarks 

8 October 1993 

RRSS-5 Long March 2C 

Operated eight days, but 
failed to land because of 

8 February 1994 Shijian-4 

3 July 1994 


Long March 3A 

Long March 2D 

30 November 1994 Dong Fang Hong-3 Long March 3A 


Operated in a geosynchro- 
nous transfer orbit 

Operated fifteen days and 
then landed 

Placed in quasi-geosynchro- 
nous orbit, but failed to 
station because fuel had 

TTS — Technical Test Satellite 
RRSS — Returnable Remote Sensing Satellite 
ECS — Experimental Communication Satellite 
OCS — Operational Communication Satellite 

The DFH-2A Satellite Series 

The first DFH-2A satellite was launched on 7 March 1988 and parked at 87.5° E above 
the equator. All four C-band transponders aboard the satellite have seen service. 
Transponders A and B relayed the first and second channels of the Central People's 
Broadcasting Station. Transponder C was used to transmit programs from Xizang televi- 
sion station and to provide special services for the Bank of China. Transponder D was used 
to transmit programs from the Yunnan, Guizou, and Xinjiang television stations. The 
power output of these transponders was 25 percent greater than that of the DFH-2. They 
were designed to last 4.5 years, or 50 percent longer. Moreover, the DFH-2A can provide 
3,000 telephone channels or four television channels in contrast to the 1,000 telephone 
channels or two television channels provided by the DFH-2 satellite. 

On 22 December 1988, China successfully launched the second DFH-2A satellite and 
parked it in a geostationary orbit at 110.5° E above the equator. Its four transponders 
relayed educational television programming over thirty channels and provided specialized 
communications services. On 4 February 1990, the third DFH-2A satellite was successful- 
ly launched and parked in an orbit at 98° E above the equator Subsequently, the fourth 
DFH-2A satellite was launched on 28 December 1991, but unlike its successful predeces- 
sors, it did not achieve the desired orbit because of a firing failure of the launch vehicle's 
third stage. Nonetheless, the satellite entered an elliptical orbit using an onboard motor. 

210 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Figure 28 

Launched in 1988, the first of China's DFH-2A series of satellites relayed television programming to key provincial capitals 
and provided special services for the Bank of China. (Courtesy of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology) 

The DFH-3: The Second-Generation 
Communications Satellite 

The second-generation DFH-3 communications satellite was a medium-capacity space- 
craft designed to take over from the first generation of satellites and to satisfy an increased 
demand for domestic communications capacity. It was to be put into orbit by a new launch 
vehicle, the Long March 3A. The beam of the DFH-3 communications antenna was 
designed to cover more than 90 percent of the territory of China. The DFH-3 satellite car- 
ried twenty-four C-band transponders, of which six were medium powered and were to be 
used to transmit television programming; the others were low powered for carrying tele- 
phone, telegraph, facsimile, and data transmissions. The DFH-3 was capable of relaying 
six channels of color television programming and 8,100 telephone channels simultane- 
ously. It was designed to last eight years, providing television and radio program and com- 
munications services to the entire country by the year 2000. 

With the launch of the DFH-3 satellite, Chinese communications satellite technology 
will reach a new level. The DFH-3 was to be the first communications satellite geared to 
the needs of the whole society as well as to the needs of business and the state. For the 
most part, the Chinese Academy of Space Technology carried out the design and manu- 
facture of the satellite in China, although some foreign electronic devices and mechani- 

Beyond the Ionosphere 211 

cal parts were purchased, and some components were produced in cooperation with the 
German firm MBB (Messerschmit-Bolkow-Blohm). 

On 30 November 1994, the DFH-3 satellite was launched (about a year later than 
scheduled) into geosynchronous transfer orbit on a Long March 3A rocket. It was then 
injected into a quasi-geosynchronous orbit through maneuvers carried out by the 
onboard propulsion system. These maneuvers showed that the satellite's system design 
and technical concept were feasible and correct, but unfortunately, the satellite, on the 
verge of success, could not maintain its orbital position. Leakage in its attitude control 
thrusters had drained its fuel supply. Consequently, the DFH-3 did not become operative. 
The results of in-orbit tests indicated that the onboard subsystems, including the transpon- 
ders, were all normal. The Chinese Academy of Space Technology is currendy reviewing 
its systems and subsystems in the hopes of attempting another launch. 

Benefits of China's Communications Satellites 

Communications satellites have brought about many social and economic benefits to 
China. The application of communications satellites to the development of the country's 
telecommunications, television, and radio infrastructures has allowed China to leap over 
the traditional development stage and to realize countrywide coverage in a single step. 
Prior to the arrival of satellite communications, China's communications and broadcast 
services, especially its long-distance communications, were backward. Not only was the 
number of telephone channels small, but the quality of communications was poor. The 
poor quality and depressed quantity of telecommunications services severely limited the 
development of the Chinese economy: the speed of information transmission is one of the 
most important factors affecting economic, cultural, and educational development. 

Since 1984, however, to effect a countrywide system of communications satellites, 
China has established a number of ground satellite stations in several cities, such as 
Beijing, Kunming (Yunnan Province capital), Urumqi (Xinjiang Autonomous Region 
capital), Lhasa (Xizang Autonomous Region capital), and Nansha island. Numerous 
diverse government agencies, such as posts and telecommunications, petroleum, mining, 
water conservation, electrical power, news, and the military, transmit most of their tele- 
phone calls, telegrams, facsimiles, data, tables, and pictures via communications satellites. 
The result is a significant improvement in communications, especially long-distance com- 
munications, and the overcoming of communications difficulties in remote districts. If 
China were to establish a high-quality radio and television broadcasting network covering 
up to 80 percent of the country using traditional microwave relay technology, the cost 
would be about 2 billion yuan ($370 million at the 1993 estimated price and exchange 
rate). The same services can be provided at a cost of only 1 billion yuan ($185 million at 
the 1993 estimated price and exchange rate) by a communications satellite system. 

By the end of 1995, more than 30,000 receive-only stations had been built. The qual- 
ity of television program transmissions has been enhanced and geographical coverage 
expanded. China has established more than 100 communications ground stations so far 
with antennas larger than five meters in diameter. In the field of educational television, 
the combined coverage rate achieved by the Central Television Station and local television 
stations was only 33 percent before 1983. The quality of transmission was low, and its effec- 
tiveness was poor because of geographical and climatic conditions. Subsequently, howev- 
er, communications satellites began carrying two educational stations with a total of 
thirty hours of daily programming. By the end of 1995, China had more than 1,000 
educational television receiving and transmitting stations, more than 10,000 receive-only 

212 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

stations, and more than 62,000 display points in the national educational system, repre- 
senting a coverage rate of more than 83 percent. According to a poll conducted by the 
Chinese Educational Television Station, the total population receiving and watching 
educational television programs has reached 30 million. 

As for long-distance telephony and telegraphy, if China were to establish a communi- 
cations network linking all of its provincial and regional capitals by means of microwave 
relays and coaxial cable lines, the estimated cost would run into billions of yuan (nearly 
$1 billion). Use of a satellite communications system lowered this figure to only 500 mil- 
lion yuan ($93 million). By the end of 1995, China had more than 8,000 domestic and 
25,000 direct international satellite channels available, as well as ten special satellite com- 
munications networks for specifics uses in the development of petroleum, mining, water 
conservation, and electrical power. At present, China is constructing a number of medi- 
um-sized satellite ground stations to add telephone and telegraph satellite channels. The 
number of very small aperture terminals countrywide has reached 35,000. 

Satellite communications also has aided the field of finance. By using satellites for 
fund transfers, China's banks can reduce greatly the amount of money that is in transit 
from one point to another and that, as a result, cannot be used. The total amount of funds 
being transferred among Chinese banks at various levels is, according to one study, as 
much as 50 billion yuan ($9.3 billion) at any one moment, and the average time required 
for transfer is six days. By managing the transfer of funds by satellite, this figure can be 
reduced by as much 50 percent, so that an extra 25 billion yuan ($4.6 billion) would be 
available for six extra days, thus increasing the amount of working capital and greatly 
enhancing the availability of funds. The DFH-2A satellites now transmit financial data for 
the Bank of China. The bank's network is centered at the Beijing head office and includes 
350 branch offices. The network not only helps modernize fund clearance and transfer 
transactions, but also provides financial management information services, telephone 
communications, business training, and teleconferencing. 

For the management of railway traffic, the satellite system of communications and 
train dispatching has enabled a dramatic increase in the density of train traffic. The time 
interval between two trains in motion can be reduced from the present eight minutes to 
three minutes, thereby doubling rail transport capacity without much extra cost. In 
contrast, the construction of a duplicate railway line from Beijing to Shanghai to double 
transport capacity would cost 10.2 billion yuan ($1.89 billion), whereas building a satellite 
communications and dispatching system would cost only 1 billion yuan ($185 million). 
Preliminary studies to help select a suitable system are currendy under way. 

Future Prospects 

Although it is a geographically enormous and populous country, China has a limited 
economic capability. As a result, the country finds it impossible to increase to a large 
extent its investment in space efforts. Therefore, the selection and planning of its com- 
munications satellite program, with an eye to its obvious social and economic benefits, 
have critical importance. China urgently needs to develop satellite communications and 
broadcasting capacity to offset its shortage of educational and communications services. 
Moreover, since the end of 1980s, the demand on communications satellites by both 
domestic and foreign users has increased rapidly. In particular, the recent appearance of 
the so-called information superhighway has increased further demand on communica- 
tions satellites. Undoubtedly, the communications satellite will be one of the main 
thoroughfares of the future information superhighway. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 213 

For these reasons, during the 1990s, China undertook a large-scale development of its 
communications satellites. Future satellites will operate not only in the C-band, as do exist- 
ing satellites, but also in the Ku- and L-bands to meet the requirements of educational 
television, fixed and mobile communications service, specialized data transmission, radio 
broadcasting, and television transmission. In addition, China plans to develop small, light, 
inexpensive satellites to meet the requirements of domestic and foreign users of small and 
medium scale. 

At present, some satellites can broadcast directly to homes in several developed 
countries. The United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Japan have their own direct- 
television satellites, so that families can receive and watch television programs relayed 
directiy by satellite. It is just a matter of time before China will develop direct-television 
broadcast satellites. Satellites also have unparalleled advantages over other media for 
mobile communication. In recent years, a variety of mobile satellite communications sys- 
tems have been placed in high, medium, and low orbits or are in the planning stage. 
China, too, needs mobile communications satellites, and it is possible that a mobile com- 
munications satellite system will be developed in the not-too-distant future. 

To meet the future demand for satellite bandwidth for the national high-speed infor- 
mation network, television broadcasting, and mobile communications, China will need a 
large number of satellite transponders by the year 2000. Public communications will 
require sixty to sixty-five transponders, including five to seven in Ku-band, while the 
special communications needs of various governmental agencies, banks, and large com- 
panies will require an additional twenty-five to thirty transponders, including twelve to fif- 
teen in Ku-band. The country's remaining communications will require sixteen transpon- 
ders, with four in Ku-band. It is anticipated that the number of users of mobile satellite 
communications will increase to between 200,000 and 300,000. In the field of television 
broadcasting, the Central Television Station, the television stations of thirty-one provinces, 
city-states, and autonomous regions, and the estimated four to six educational television 
channels will require a minimum of forty-four to forty-eight transponders. In total, China 
will require 145 to 153 transponders at least by the year 2000, including twenty-one to 
twenty-five Ku-band transponders with fifty-four to seventy-five megahertz of bandwidth 
each. To meet these requirements, China must build and launch six or seven satellites, if 
each satellite carries twenty-four transponders, or four to five satellites, if each carries 
thirty-six transponders. 

The Next Generation of Communications Satellite 

To satisfy these increasing communications needs, consolidate domestic markets, and 
penetrate international markets, China will focus on the development of satellites of high- 
er quality and lower cost. The Chinese Academy of Space Technology, having developed 
and launched two generations of commvmications satellites, has begun reviewing its satel- 
lite experience and is studying foreign technology and management methods. The first 
step must be to standardize a common platform bus for a series of satellites. The platform 
is the base of a satellite. The use of a standard common platform can simplify the work of 
developing a new platform for each new satellite. A few standard platforms capable of 
satisfying the needs of various payloads will be developed. The main objectives of this 
approach are to reduce development time, to improve satellite quality, and to lower costs. 

The Chinese space industry is currently developing four series of standard platforms, 
one of which is a geostationary orbit satellite platform to be used in communications satel- 
lites. The DJS-1 platform used by the DFH-3 communications satellite can support a 

214 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

payload weight of 150 to 170 kilograms, while its solar array is capable of generating 1,600 
to 2,200 watts of electrical power to supply a payload electric power requirement of 900 to 
1,000 watts. The DJS-1 platform also had 1,270 kilograms of available propellant for 
orbital maneuvers and an expected lifetime of eight to ten years. 

The DJS-l platform will be used to build additional medium-capacity communications 
satellites and to provide dual-band (Ku- and C-band) communications, mobile communi- 
cations, data transmission, and other services. To satisfy the demand for large-capacity 
satellites, China plans to develop a third generation of communications satellite, one with 
large capacity and a large platform bus, dubbed DJS-2. The main capabilities of one 
option tentatively planned for the DJS-2 include such features as the ability to support a 
payload weight of between 400 and 500 kilograms, a solar array output of 4,500 to 6,000 
watts, electric power available for payloads of 3,000 to 4,700 watts, 2,200 kilograms of 
propellant available for orbital maneuvering, and an operational lifetime of fifteen years. 
The DJS-2 common platform will be able to carry twelve Ku-band transponders of 100-watt 
output and twenty-four C-band transponders of sixteen-watt output, or fourteen to sixteen 
Ku-band transponders of 120-watt of output. It will serve to build large<apacity Ku and 
C dual-band communications satellites, Ku-band direct-broadcast satellites, and tracking 
and data relay satellites. 

As payloads are the core of a satellite and the decisive factor in determining its uses 
and performances, and as the technical level of Chinese payloads is much lower than that 
of advanced countries, China must develop or acquire critical payload technologies on a 
priority basis. The main payloads of a communications satellite are transponders and 
antennas. In the field of transponders, China must first develop Ku-, L-, S-, and X-band 
transponders, dual-band (C- and Ku-band) transponders, higher powered transponders, 
and onboard processing techniques. In the field of antennas, China first must develop 
multibeam antennas, controllable spot-beam antennas, changeable-shaped-beam anten- 
nas, and a number of other antennas, as well as the techniques of onboard switching and 
intersatellite linkage. 

While the Chinese Academy of Space Technology will carry out much of this devel- 
opmental work, international collaboration must be an important part of those efforts. 
China should enlarge its range of cooperation with other countries and seek to collabo- 
rate at several levels in multiple fields. These efforts should include the importation of 
certain critical technologies that are of great importance, but such efforts require addi- 
tional funding to develop and are difficult to achieve in the short term. China also should 
contract with foreign countries for some subsystems, while the design and integration of 
the satellite system will remain the responsibility of the Chinese Academy of Space 
Technology. Finally, China should carry out general programs of international coopera- 
tion for the joint development of new satellites, such as that undertaken with Brazil for 
the development of the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite Ziyuan-1 or the Sino 
satellite being developed jointiy with French and German companies. 

Chapter 16 

No Free Launch: Designing the 
Indian National Satellite^ 

by Raman Srinivasan 

The Indian National Satellite (INSAT) was the most advanced nonmilitary satellite 
ever launched anywhere. The satellite was and continues to be promoted by the Indian 
Space Research Organization as its flagship satellite and as being distinctly Indian in char- 
acter. While most satellites fulfill a single, well-defined mission, INSAT was a multipurpose 
geostationary satellite. Its peculiar design arose partly from very unusual design constraints 
placed on it by India's insistence that the satellite carry at least four different payloads. 

The most significant of the payloads on INSAT was a package that could receive tele- 
vision programs from selected stations in New Delhi and Ahmedabad and retransmit them 
to relay stations in Amritsar, Bombay, Madras, Gauhati, and Calcutta. Its importance arose 
fi-om its special ability to transmit educational television programs directly to specially 
designed television sets owned communally by thousands of remote Indian villages. Many 
Indian leaders hoped that a significant fraction of India's somnolent villages thus would 
be awakened. 

The second package was designed to provide telephone, facsimile, data, telegraph, 
video text, and other communications services among metropolitan areas. The third was 
a remote-sensing package built to survey the nation's resources and thus help in its devel- 
opment planning. The last payload was an ingenious meteorological system that not only 
transmitted pictures of cloud cover, but also collected weather information from several 
thousand unmanned data collection points on the ground; it served to trigger selected 
disaster-warning sirens in isolated coastal villages under the imminent threat of cyclones. 

Thus, INSAT had the communications capacity of an Intelsat FV (the state of the art 
in communications satellites when INSAT was designed) , a meteorological payload effec- 
tively equivalent to the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-A 
(then the most advanced of weather satellites), and a direct-broadcast television system 
akin to the Applications Technology Satellite (ATS)-6 (once again, the frontier of tech- 
nology), all wrapped into one compact package. INSAT was a crowded Indian bus shot 
into space. 

1. Senior retired Indian officials who have read this text have advised the author that it contains mate- 
rials "of a sensitive nature." Confidential sources may be found in twfo of the author's papers, "INSAT: The 
Poliucs of Appropriating High Technology" and "SITE: Traditionalizing Space Technology," typescript manu- 
scripts, seminar papers in the author's possession. Unless indicated otherwise, this chapter is extracted from 
those two papers. Moreover, extensive interviews with Indian space program personnel form the basis of some 
of the assertions made here. The author wishes to thank his advisors. Raja Rao, his colleagues at the University of 
Pennsylvania, and the officials of the Indian space program for helping with both the research and the writing. 


216 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

INSAT Historiography: 
Questions, Sources, and Strategies 

The history of INSAT was shaped by India's desire to "gatecrash" the glamorous world 
of modernism. When India gained independence in 1947, the moral authority of 
Gandhian nonviolence and the grandiose global vision of Nehru produced a heady 
euphoria. India not only wanted to join the party of the moderns, but insisted on wearing 
nothing but a loincloth, like Gandhi. Nowhere were these contradictory aims more appar- 
ent than in India's approach to its space program. 

India made it clear, privately and through self-righteous declarations in international 
forums, that its plans for space technology were driven by "real needs" on land. Indians 
argued that technology in space was practically worthless without a vast array of other 
technological systems on the ground. INSAT sought to demonstrate the practical benefits 
of advanced technologies to the poorer nations. Its ground systems were designed to show 
that space technology was a technology appropriate for underdeveloped societies.^ 

INSAT could be equally renowned for the many meanings loaded into it. At one level, 
INSAT embodied the tensions and aspirations associated with decolonization. At another 
level, it illustrated the use of technology as an instrument of foreign policy. From the point 
of view of a third world country, it was also an example of using technology for economic 
development, social and cultural change, nation-state building, and the formation of a 
nonaligned bloc of third world nations politically equidistant from both the Soviet Union 
and the United States. 

The past is a perishable resource, particularly so in the hot and humid climes of India. 
There are no depositories of documents, such as NASA's archives, for the Indian space 
program. The custodian of the satellite, the Indian Department of Space is a somewhat 
secretive quasi-governmental institution. In a society still largely oral rather than textual, 
crucial decisions are far less likely to be committed to paper than they are in the West. The 
culture of autonomy in these institutions encourages minimal documentation of deci- 
sions. Also, as is the case of good Hindus, the Department of Space cremates its dead 
files — and fairly regularly, too. Furthermore, that peculiar literary genre of the British Raj, 
annotations in official files, has declined, as has other institutions of the Raj in postcolo- 
nial India. Thus, researching INSAT poses many problems. 

The sources for INSAT's history are scattered. This chapter relies extensively on field 
work, interviews, and archives in the West. Access to information was achieved in India 
using the data obtained in the West, such as limited access to the Indian Department of 
Space records.^ 

From Atomic Energy to Space Research 

The Indian nuclear and space programs, although originally the private vision of a 
few scientists, quickly crystallized as high-priority programs of the new Indian state. A par- 
liament, largely ignorant of science but lusting after advanced technology, approved the 
programs. An impoverished mass of mostly agrarian taxpayers funded the nuclear and 
space programs. These programs became planned efforts to appropriate alien technolo- 

2. Vikram A. Sarabhai, Science Policy and National Development {Delhi: Macmillan Company of India, 1974). 

3. The author would like to thank an anonymous worker in the Indian Space Research Organization 
for granting limited access to the records of the Department of Space. This person, of all the people the author 
met in India, understood history. 

Beyond THE Ionosphere 217 

gies, paths to rapid industrialization, ways of catching up with the West, and symbols of a 
resurgent India. 

Just as it is necessary to know Mahatma Gandhi to appreciate the history of indepen- 
dent India, an awareness of Homi J. Bhabha is crucial to the story of INSAT. By creating 
new institutions for the adaptation of advanced technologies, Bhabha laid the foundations 
of INSAT. His approach to high technology continued to shape the Indian space and 
nuclear programs for nearly four decades. To know and appreciate the life and work of 
Homi Bhabha is to understand not only INSAT, but also other high-technology enterpris- 
es of the Indian state. 

Born to an influential Bombay Parsi family in 1909, the young Bhabha attended a pri- 
vate school established primarily for European children. He pursued a career in physics, 
starting with undergraduate and doctoral studies at Cambridge under the famed physicist 
Paul Dirac, as well as at the Cavendish Laboratory. He quickly earned a reputation as a 
brilliant theoretical physicist, and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1939.^ 

On a short holiday when World War II erupted, Bhabha accepted a specially created 
readership in cosmic ray physics at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, which was 
founded by his relatives, the Tata family. Bhabha decided to concentrate on the difficult 
task of creating new institutions embodying a new culture of science befitting modern 
India. The Tata Trusts, controlled by his close relatives, aided Bhabha in this task. In 1945, 
a generous and timely grant enabled him to create the Tata Institute of Fundamental 
Research at Bombay. There, amidst beautiful paintings and landscaped gardens, Bhabha 
planned how to shape the future of India. 

A member of the Bombay Parsi elite by birth, Bhabha came into frequent contact with 
the leaders of the nationalist movement, such as Nehru and Gandhi. The independence 
movement received financial contributions from the merchant-princes of the Parsi com- 
munity, and nationalist leaders were often their house guests. These informal contacts 
with the statesmen of India became important in helping the young Homi Bhabha direct 
India's high-technology ventures. 

Just after independence, Bhabha quickly obtained formal approval to create the 
Atomic Energy Commission. Under its umbrella, he organized a vast empire of research. 
Convinced that even a backward country such as India could catch up with the West in an 
emerging field such as atomic energy, precisely because of the field's nascent character, 
Bhabha effectively welded Gandhian nonviolence and the rhetoric of the "peaceful uses 
of atomic energy" to Nehru's inspiring, if occasionally irritating, philosophy of political 

Although India began with atomic energy programs, it quickly diversified into space 
research. Propelling this move were both Indian and foreign influences. Bhabha's exten- 
sive travels in the West and his own interest in the physics of the upper atmosphere alert- 
ed him to the growing significance of space technology. He gradually expanded the 

4. The only scholarly work on Homi Jehangir Bhabha is a comparative study of Bhabha and Meghnad 
Saha. Robert S. Anderson, Building Scientific Institutions in India: Saha and Bhabha (Montreal: Centre for 
Developing-Area Studies, McGill University, 1975). The section on Bhabha also draws on: R.P. Kulkarni and V. 
Sarma, Homi Bhabha: Father of Nuclear Science in India (Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1969); P.R. Pisharoty, C. V. 
Raman (New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 
1982); George Greenstein, "A Gentleman of the Old School: Homi Bhabha and the Development of Science in 
India," American Scholar 61 (Summer 1992): 409-19; Shiv Visvanathan, Organising for Science: The Making of an 
Industrial Research Laboratory (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1985); G. Venkatraman, /owrne)) into Light: Life and 
Science of C. V. Raman (Bangalore, India: Indian Academy of Sciences in cooperation with Indian National 
Science Academy, distributed by Oxford University Press, 1988) ; as well as Homi Jehangir Bhabha, Science and the 
Problems of Development (Bombay: Atomic Energy Establishment of Bombay, 1966); the "Bhabha Report," the pop- 
ular name for India (Republic) Electronics Committee, Electronics in India Report (Bombay: India Government 
Press, February 1966). 

5. For a history of India-U.S. relations after World War II, a surprisingly neglected research area, see 
H.W. Brands, The Specter of Neutralism: The United States and the Emergence of the Third World, 1947-1960 (New York: 
Columbia University Press, 1989). 

218 The Unfolding of the World S\stem: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

domain of his Department of Atomic Energy to encompass the upper atmosphere and 
thus, eventually, space. The Indian National Committee for Outer Space Research 
(INCOSPAR) was constituted in early 1962 under the umbrella of the Department of 
Atomic Energy. As a result, all space-related research was embedded in the technocratic 
Department of Atomic Energy until 1972, when an independent Department of Space was 

With the death of Homi Bhabha in an airplane accident, a new generation ascended 
to the throne. The generational transition, although nonviolent, produced discontinuities. 
In the area of large-scale science, Vikram Sarabhai succeeded Bhabha. Similar to Homi 
Bhabha, whom he had assisted in space research, Sarabhai was born into an elite family 
with a pronounced interest in social reform, the arts, and letters. His father, Ambalal 
Sarabhai, was one of the leading citizens of Ahmedabad, approximately 300 hundred miles 
north of Bombay. Ahmedabad, proudly proclaimed "the Manchester of India," had 
become a major textile center by the early twentieth century, thanks to the enterprise of a 
group of intricately connected Gujarati Jain families. Close ties grew between the Sarabhai 
family and national leaders. The Sarabhai family, described by a Rockefeller Foundation 
officer as the "Medicis of Ahmedabad," played a crucial role in postcolonial India.'^ 

Vikram Sarabhai and his sisters, children of a wealthy Gujarati merchant, were edu- 
cated at home by a carefully selected group of Indian and foreign educators inspired by 
Maria Montessori. As a child, Sarabhai met national leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi, 
Jawaharlal Nehru, and Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi, as family guests in the Sarabhai 
mansions.' At age seventeen, Sarabhai enrolled at St. John's College in Cambridge in 1936 
and completed his natural science tripos in 1939. The onset of World War II forced him 
to return to India, where he continued to study physics at the Indian Institute of Science 
in Bangalore. There, the young Vikram Sarabhai found the opportunity to work closely 
with C.V. Raman and Homi Bhabha. After the end of the war, Sarabhai returned to 
Cambridge to finish his doctoral dissertation. On his return in 1947 to an independent 
India, Sarabhai, like Bhabha, persuaded charitable trusts controlled by his family and 
friends to endow a research institution near home in Ahmedabad, the Physical Research 
Laboratory. Barely twenty-eight years old, Sarabhai had embarked on an intense mission 
as a creator and cultivator of institutions. 

Building Coalitions 

Despite the frustrations and disillusionment of India during the 1960s, the early years 
of the Indian space program were euphoric. Vikram Sarabhai, a playful, Krishna-like suc- 
cessor to the solemn and remote Bhabha, ushered in a decade of naive technological 
enthusiasm in India with the formation of INCOSPAR in 1962. Sarabhai's personality def- 
initely generated excitement with the space program. Only someone endowed with at 
least some of the attributes of Krishna could have built India's space program in such a 
traumatic decade. 

Like Krishna, Sarabhai played several roles in his efforts to nurture the frail space pro- 
gram in its early years. He was a roving diplomat, teacher, strategist, friend, counselor, 
leader, and system-builder. Within India, his unusual combination of scientific eminence, 

6. Erik Erikson, Gandhi's Truth: On the Origins of Militant Non-Violence (New York: Norton, 1969), 
p. 298. For background on Ahmedabad, see Kenneth L. Gillion, Ahmedabad: A Study in Indian Urban History 
(Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1968). 

7. The section on Vikram Sarabhai is drawn from Chotubhai Bhatt, "Vikram Sarabhai," Electronics India 
2 (January 1972): 35; Padmanabh Joshi, "Vikram Sarabhai: A Study in Innovative Leadership and Institution- 
Building," Ph.D. diss., Gujrat University at Ahmedabad, 1985. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 219 

aristocratic background, and disarming simplicity created a loving loyalty, often amount- 
ing to devotion, among those who knew him. Sarabhai's first attempts at technological 
evangelism within the Indian bureaucracy resulted in the Arvi Earth Station, the creation 
of which knit together a strong network of allies for the space program and set the pat- 
tern for the way in which INSAT would be constituted." 

The Arvi terminal, now a prominent landmark on the Pune-Nasik Road, stands as a 
testament to India's first success in space technology. Sarabhai had to persuade the rather 
conservative engineering bureaucracy entrenched in the Ministry of Communications to 
let him build satellite telecommunications terminals. The Overseas Communications 
Service had made plans to be connected to the international telephone network provid- 
ed by Intelsat III, and it needed a ground station in India. 

Because no one in India had built a ground terminal before, RCA was retained as a 
consultant and subcontractor for the electronics. The design of the antenna itself was 
based on the drawings of a similar antenna built by the U.S. firm Blaw Knox, but the engi- 
neering construction was done with the help of a Tata company, TELCO. The Arvi station 
was ready by October 1969, ahead of schedule. Sarabhai's ability to snatch the Arvi pro- 
ject from RCA resulted in saving India the equivalent of about $800,000 (in 1969 dollars) 
in foreign exchange and created a powerful profile for the space program within the 
bureaucracy. More importandy, it redefined the rules of the game. The space program 
acquired operational autonomy from the bureaucracy. 

The sheer force of Sarabhai's personality subdued open dissent, and his reputation 
enabled him to slice through the bureaucratic jungle. Assured of loyal support at all lev- 
els, from the prime minister to the peon, Sarabhai, as did Bhabha, set out to secure coop- 
eration from the spacefaring powers. He first turned to the United States. Unfortunately, 
NASA's pragmatic director of international programs, Arnold W. Frutkin, had heard it all 
before. Frutkin previously had been inoculated by none other than Homi Bhabha him- 
self. Thus, Sarabhai's efforts to gain U.S. assistance met with polite but firm refusals.^ 

There was, however, one important exception. During the early 1960s, NASA was plan- 
ning a series of advanced technology satellites known by the acronym ATS. Leonard Jaffe, 
NASA's director of communications, informed Frutkin of the need to field-test an ATS pro- 
ject, which involved the direct broadcast of television to receivers from a satellite. At the 
time, this technology was untested. The commercial and political advantages of a satellite 
system that could beam programs directly to television sets attracted NASA policy-makers.'" 

Frutkin and Jaffe examined a world adas for a suitable site for the ATS experiment. 
The three countries that were large enough and close enough to the equator for testing 
a direct-broadcast satellite were Brazil, China, and India. Br£izil proved uninteresting; the 
population was concentrated in a few cities, and conventional television broadcast tech- 
nology was clearly a better solution. The People's Republic of China was out of the picture 
for political reasons. Therefore, India was the logical choice. It was densely populated, yet 
only Delhi had a television transmitter (a small one) left behind by a Dutch electronics 
company after a trade show. 

8. Kamla Chowdhry, "Vikram Sarabhai: Institution Builder," Physics News 3(1) (1972): 17; Kshitish 
Divalia, "Dr. Vikram Sarabhai: An Enterprising Industrialist," Physics News 3 {\) (1972): 19; M. Sarabhai, This Alone 
is True (London: Meridian Books, 1952). 

9. Arnold Frutkin, interview, Washington, DC, 4 January 1989, NASA History Office, Washington, DC; 
Satish Dhawan, interview with author, Bangalore, India, 5 January 1990. 

10. Arnold Frutkin, interview, Washington, DC, 5 January 1989, NASA History Office; Leonard Jaffe, 
fjersonal communication; James Wood, Satellite Communications and DBS Systems (Oxford: Oxford University 
Press, 1992); Michael E. Kinsley, Outer Space and Inner Sanctums (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976). 

220 The Unfolding of the World S\stem: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Frutkin and Jaffe calculated that it would be expensive to have a conventional televi- 
sion system covering the entire country; a satellite would provide a cheaper alternative. 
Apart from being free of technological encumbrances, India possessed other advantages. 
Politically, it was an ideal location to demonstrate the peaceful uses of U.S. space tech- 
nology and to beat the Soviets in technological diplomacy. The potential for propaganda 
was immense; Frutkin vowed to exploit it to the fullest. His earlier experience with Bhabha 
had taught him to negotiate with India." 

The U.S. State Department, however, was not enthusiastic about India, having been 
frustrated many times in its crude attempts to win India over to the "free world." An 
embarrassing controversy over placing Voice of America transmitters in India remained 
fresh in its memory.'^ Having been turned down recently, the State Department was not 
about to ask India if it would let a U.S. satellite beam television programs directly into 
remote villages. The request had to come from India. Therefore, to spare the State 
Department further embarrassment, Frutkin arranged to have Sarabhai approach NASA. 
Sarabhai agreed gleefully. 

He requested the use of an ATS satellite for a year to conduct a satellite instructional 
television experiment in India's villages. He saw a great opportunity to convince India of 
the need to invest heavily in space technology, a unique chance to learn the ground seg- 
ment of a satellite system from the Americans, the possibility of baptizing a whole gener- 
ation of Indian scientists and engineers, and a systems management lesson for an INSAT 
satellite. The Indian Department of Atomic Energy and NASA signed an agreement for 
the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) in 1966. 

The Satellite Instructional Television Experiment 

SITE," a massive experiment in social engineering designed jointly by NASA and the 
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), is a fantastic tale of technological coopera- 
tion between unfriendly democracies. Indian engineers placed television sets in 5,000 
remote villages spread in six clusters across the subcontinent. Half of the televisions were 
further modified to receive programs directly from the ATS satellite, and each of which 
was equipped with a large, distinctive dish antenna that dominated the village landscape. 
ISRO technocrats, spurred by social engineering ambitions, devised a highly sophisticat- 
ed computer program that chose villages specifically for their backwardness. Most villages 
were not electrified, and many could not be connected to the electric network within a 
year. Therefore, space technologists reengineered the television sets to adapt them to the 
rigors of rural life. Many were powered by solar energy and batteries. NASA wanted to test 
some new solar cells and encouraged the use of such television sets.'"* 

For a year, from 1 August 1975 to 31 July 1976, hundreds and sometimes thousands 
of villagers gathered daily in front of each of these 5,000 television sets — placed outside 
like a processional deity of a temple — to watch educational television, which showed them 

11. R.S.Jakhu and R. Singal, "Satellite Technology and Educa-tion," Annals of Air and Space Law 6 (1981): 

12. The United States wanted a Voice of America transmitter on Indian soil to counter communist pro- 
paganda in South and Southeast Asia. See James Tyson, U.S. International Broadcasting and National Security (New 
York: Ramapo Press, 1983). 

13. An experiment akin to SITE was conducted using radio technology from the mid-1940s and into the 
1950s. However, SITE did not seem to have utilized the historical experience of either the educational radio 
experiments or a similar rural television experiment conducted in Europe during the early 1950s. 

14. Arbind Sinha, Media and Rural Development (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1985). 

Beyond the Ionosphere 


Figure 29 

A technician vhth the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) stands next to a working model of the solid-state television 
set, designed with NASA assistance, for use in SITE (Satellite Instructional Television Experiment). The picture epitomizes the 
contrast between Indian traditional rural culture and the high-technology domain of satellite communications, as well as 
Indian technocratic hopes of using SITE to satisfy the country's social engineering ambitions. (Courtesy of NASA) 

how to lead better lives and grow more food. During the day, the village school children 
watched science experiments on television. Not all the viewers were villagers. Often, engi- 
neers and bureaucrats watched. The American embassy in New Delhi had a SITE televi- 
sion set. In Sri Lanka, Arthur C. Clarke, the Jules Verne of satellite communications, was 
given a set to watch SITE from his home. Every major newspaper in the world wrote about 

After a year, NASA parked the satellite in a new orbit away from India. Clarke plead- 
ed forcefully with NASA to continue this revolutionary experiment beyond the stipulated 
one-year period. Many leftist journalists voiced the disappointment of villagers. 
Delegations of villagers trekked several miles to meet government officials. Hundreds of 
postcards petitioned the government to continue the program. Several of the anthropol- 
ogists stationed in villages to study the effects of SITE stayed longer to conduct post-SITE 
evaluations, then returned home to write lengthy reports.'* 

SITE was, thanks to Vikram Sarabhai's foresight, a joint effort of All India Radio and 
Doordarshan (Indian Television) , the Ministry of Telecommunications, the education 
and agriculture ministries, and ISRO. ISRO, of course, had the final responsibility for the 
project's execution. Although ISRO engineers were reasonably confident of being ready 
with the technologies for handling the ATS-6 ground segment, they necessarily had to del- 
egate the task of producing programming to the Ministry of Telecommunications and, 
within it, to All India Radio and later Doordarshan. 

All India Radio was an inertial bureaucracy totally unequipped to imagine the possi- 
bility of producing six hours of educational television every day for a year in four differ- 
ent languages. According to the agreement between the Department of Atomic Energy 

15. Arthur C. Clarke, Ascent to Orbit: A Scientific Autobiography: The Writings of Arthur C. Clarke (New York: 
John Wiley and Sons, 1984). 

222 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

and NASA, the Indians had agreed to feed the satellite six hours of television program- 
ming for 365 days. To be fair to All India Radio, one must remember that the voracious 
appedte of ATS-6 amounted to almost twice the annual harvest of the extraordinarily 
active Indian commercial film industry. At least in the eyes of its Indian managers, SITE 
quickly transmogrified itself from a boon to a devilish nightmare of a bargain to be ful- 
filled by them."' As late as January 1975, less than six months before SITE was to go on air, 
only enough satellite fodder for one month was on hand.'^ 

SITE provided a perfect opportunity for Indian engineers to acquire a wide variety of 
valuable technological knowledge — the sort of technological learning that occurs on any 
project. What marked SITE as an exceptional technological enterprise (and of importance 
to INSAT) was the way in which SITE affected those Indian engineers who went to the 
United States to help NASA prepare for SITE. The ISRO liaison in the United States 
between 1969 and 1973, Pramod Kale, had been recruited by Sarabhai to work in the Indian 
space program. Kale and other ISRO engineers working at NASA learned to design an 
advanced operational satellite, and Kale eventually became the project manager of INSAT.'* 

The phenomenal success of SITE in penetrating remote regions of rural India 
impressed everyone. It gave the Indian space program a level of state support that was oth- 
erwise unimaginable. SITE provided ISRO valuable technical expertise in building and 
managing the elaborate ground systems needed to utilize any satellite. It also enhanced 
the credibility of ISRO in the Indian scientific community and in the international space 
community. Indian scientists and engineers were more willing to work for ISRO. The 
recruitment of young professionals from elite engineering institutions increased for the 
first time after Sarabhai's death. SITE opened critical paths in the rapidly emerging 
European space programs. ISRO was accepted as an equal partner in several critical coop- 
erative programs managed by the European, French, and German space programs. The 
collaborations with European space agencies brought ISRO decisive technologies and 
much needed experience. The experience and confidence gained abroad fed into the 
design of INSAT. It also enabled India to practice its own technological diplomacy — one 
based on nonalignment"' 

More important than all the technical expertise gained from SITE was the education 
that ISRO received from the Indian villages it had set out to instruct. SITE planted the 
seeds of social responsibility into the minds of India's elite space engineers. It etched 
India's social contexts into ISRO space technology. Exposure to the complex problems of 
India's villages tempered technocratic grandiosity. Although rural television promised rev- 
olutionary social changes, it also revealed the limitations of technological fixes.^" 

Unraveling INSAT 

Homi Bhabha had begun scouting for a satellite for India as early as 1965. He was 
unwilling to purchase a ready-made satellite, because Indians would not learn anything 
about making satellites. Instead, he sought technical assistance in building a satellite and 
met several times with Arnold Frutkin to discuss U.S. assistance. Frutkin, however, saw no 

16. On All India Radio, see K.S. Mullick, Tangled Tapes: The Inside Story of Indian Broadcasting (New Delhi: 
Sterling Publishers, 1974). 

17. Arnold W. Frutkin to Yash Pal, letter, 30 January 1975, NASA History Office. 

18. M.S. Sridhar, "A Study of Indian Space Technologists,"/oMrwa/ of Library and Information Science 7(2) 
(1982): 146-58. 

19. G.A. Van Reeth and V.A. Hood, "Review of ISRO/ESA Cooperation," conference paper, Rome, 
1983; Vijay Gupta, ed., India and Non-alignment (New Delhi: New Literature, 1983); H.W. Brands, The Specter of 

20. Vikram Sarabhai, Science Policy and National Development (Delhi: Macmillan Company of India, 1974); 
Vikram Sarabhai, Management for Development (Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1974). 

Bevond the Ionosphere 223 

practical benefits for NASA from teaching Indians to build satellites. Vikram Sarabhai 
encountered even greater obstacles — not only more resistance to technology transfer, but 
also systematic pressures from the United States and its allies, especially Britain, aimed at 
discouraging India's space program. Hesiuntly, Sarabhai initiated planning for an Indian 
national satellite, to be called INSAT, in 1967. 

Systematic thinking about INSAT began in mid-1968. A seventeen-member commit- 
tee of engineers and scientists based at the Space Science and Technology Center in 
Thumba conducted a preliminary feasibility study. Ironically, their preliminary report did 
not consider the development of the payload or satellite. They had concluded that the 
first satellite had to be built in collaboration with other countries. They had not antici- 
pated Western resistance to the transfer of space technology.-' Thus, the first step in 
India's satellite program concentrated on the ground systems. This orientation continues 
to characterize the Indian space program today. The preliminary 1968 feasibility study 
exphcitly focused on two tasks that the Indians could see themselves doing: ( 1 ) designing 
orbital parameters and ground stations and (2) developing those technologies for which 
no foreign assistance was available, such as propellants and rocket guidance.^^ 

India's initial emphasis, then, was to be on the launch vehicle rather than the satel- 
lite. By 1968, negotiations with NASA to borrow the ATS-6 had generated considerable 
optimism about U.S. technological assistance. Several American aerospace firms, such as 
General Electric and Hughes Aerospace, had shown a keen desire to collaborate with 
India in building its first operational Indian satellite. However, these early efforts to build 
a launcher were unusually optimistic. 

Sarabhai, as did Bhabha, found the United Nations an effective forum to argue for 
technological assistance. An international sounding rocket program conducted in India 
brought basic rocket technology from the United States, France, and the Soviet Union. 
However, scaling up to rockets capable of launching operational satellites was a daunting 
task. Sarabhai and his colleagues recognized the nature of the challenge: India would 
have to obtain launch services, at least initially, from either the United States or the Soviet 
Union and planned its satellites accordingly. 

In 1970, Vikram Sarabhai announced plans for an Indian National Satellite (INSAT) 
at the Bombay National Electronics Conference. Attending the conference was an impres- 
sive collection of academics, industrialists, politicians, bureaucrats, researchers, scientists, 
and engineers, as well as a substantial crew of Indian journalists.'^' It was a perfect place to 
manufacture consensus for a national satellite. Sarabhai's presentation of the INSAT plans 
thrilled the crowd. Dissenting questioners were co-opted by well-informed "Sarabhai 
boys." Sarabhai's INSAT was primarily a direct-broadcast satellite meant to educate Indian 
villagers through television. To secure a v^de range of support, Sarabhai indicated the pos- 
sibility of including a number of special payloads to satisfy special clients. He also drew 
attention to the proposed SITE plan, which at the time was being worked out by a joint 
committee of Indian and U.S. engineers. 

However, there was not much demand for telecommunications from the Postal and 
Telegraphs Department or for remote sensing from the Ministry of Defense. Weather infor- 
mation was not highly sought after either. Unlike most of the participants at the 
conference, the representatives of government bureaucracies were not excited by 

21 . Anonymous, Preliminary Feasibility Study Report (Satellite Project) (Bombay: India Government Press, 
1968), p. 8. 

22. Sreehari Rao and S.K. Sinha, "Orbit Determination for ISRO Satellite Missions," Advances in Space 
Research 5(2) (1 985) : 1 47-1 53; Murray Stedman , Exporting Arms: The Federal Arms Exports Administration 1 935-1 945 
(New York: Kings Crown Press, 1947). 

23. Government of India, Proceedings of the National Electronics Conference on Electronics (Bombay: India 
Government Press, 1972). 

224 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Poutics, and Culture 

Sarabhai's technological evangelism. It seemed, though, that they realized they could not 
pose any significant opposition publicly. The primary function of Sarabhai's IN SAT was 
rural education through direct-broadcast television, making it explicitly a permanent 
replacement for SITE. If in the process INSAT could serve other needs, that was so much 
for the better. 

Shordy after unveiling his INSAT plans, Vikram Sarabhai died, in December 1971. His 
death caused serious concern about the future of INSAT. Unlike SITE, which had NASA 
for a godfather, INSAT had no powerful patrons outside the Indian space program. Even 
more troubling was that no obvious successors to Sarabhai came forth from the Indian sci- 
entific community. At the same time, the U.S. Congress delayed the ATS program through 
budget cuts, giving time for India to revamp its space program. ISRO engineers commit- 
ted to INSAT took pains to disconnect the fates of INSAT and SITE, which had been tied 
together implicitly, in the hope of ensuring INSAT's survival. 

Toward the end of January 1972, the Indian government offered the leadership of the 
space program to Satish Dhawan. Dhawan had worked for Hindusthan Aeronautics 
Limited, India's state-owned aerospace industry, and he was familiar with Soviet aerospace 
technology. In appointing Dhawan, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi announced the cre- 
ation of two important new organizations. One was the Department of Space. Dhawan 
convinced Gandhi to headquarter the Department of Space away from New Delhi, in 
Bangalore. The Department of Space was to be overseen by the other new institution, the 
Space Commission. At the same time, the space laboratories in Sarabhai's home town 
were consolidated into the Space Applications Center under the direction of Yash Pal of 
the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Also, the space laboratories in and around 
Trivandrum were consolidated as the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. Brahm Prakash, 
recently retired from the Bhabha Atomic Research Center, was persuaded to direct its 

Dhawan's leadership marked a significant change in the Indian space program. India 
could not withdraw from SITE without seriously jeopardizing its relations with NASA and 
the United States. Dhawan recognized that it had to make SITE a success. On the other 
hand, plans for INSAT could be shelved, especially because its advocates had separated it 
from SITE, and there were pressures from the Planning Commission to discard INSAT. 
The Ministry of Finance and the Planning Commission saw no cash flows in the original 
educational television version of INSAT. Fortunately, the fight over INSAT resulted in a 
compromise. No decision was made one way or the other. The government waited until 
SITE was completed to evaluate proposals for INSAT, even though it meant an expensive 
hiatus in the social revolution catalyzed by SITE. 

Dhawan pushed hard to make SITE succeed. He saw the future of INSAT, if not ISRO, 
at stake. When SITE was hailed loudly as an unprecedented success by the Western media, 
thanks to NASA's self-interest, INSAT revived. Between 1970 and 1977, the Ministry of 
Telecommunications awakened to the necessity of satellite technologies. The Prime 
Minister's Office had also become aware of the potential revolutionary capabilities of 
direct-broadcast satellite television. ISRO personnel, fired by Sarabhai's vision, succeeded 
in creating a small, independent rural television station based in Pij, Gujrat. Nonetheless, 
the Prime Minister's Office began to see the spread of satellite television of the SITE vari- 
ety to be socially disruptive. It wanted nothing more than a gradual social revolution. ^^ 

24. K.A.V. Pandalai, "Aerospace Personalities: Prof. Satish Dhawan," Aeronautical Society of India Neiusletter 
3(8) (August 1986): 2-12; Satish Dhawan, Prospects for a Space Industry in India (Bangalore, India: Pauala 
Technical Education Trust, 1983). 

25. Satish Dhawan, interview with author. Bangalore, India, 4 January 1990. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 225 

Much had changed by the time the INSAT concept revived in 1977. Dhawan, while 
well respected, did not command the influence that Sarabhai had. Back-of-the-envelope 
calculations, on net revenues generated by rural education through satellite television, 
did not hold any weight without Sarabhai. The Planning Commission, in collaboration 
with the Prime Minister's Office, sought to ground INSAT's direct-broadcast capability. 
Also, the Ministry of Finance made it clear that INSAT had to be a fully operational and 
revenue-generating satellite for it to receive funding. This implied that INSAT had to be 
a collaborative venture involving the Department of Space (directly under the purview of 
the prime minister), the gargantuan Postal and Telegraphs Department under the 
Ministry of Communications, the Meteorological Department of the Ministry of Tourism 
and Civil Aviation, and Doordarshan and All India Radio of the Ministry of Information 
and Broadcasting. Suddenly, INSAT had five clients, but they were all ossified bureaucra- 
cies dating from the British Raj into which had transmigrated a thoroughly Indian soul. 
They had little commitment to Sarabhai's vision of INSAT as an educational tool. 
Paradoxically, All India Radio and Doordarshan were anxious not to be saddled with the 
direct-broadcast segment. They feared the chore of feeding the demon satellite. The gov- 
ernment revealed no intention of freeing broadcasting from its total control. In addition, 
maintaining several hundred thousand village television sets, as called for in the INSAT 
plans, was a logistical nightmare for any government bureaucracy. Thus, the market for 
INSAT changed radically between 1970 and 1977. 

Many idealistic ISRO engineers, fresh from the experience of SITE, realized that the 
original INSAT might be hijacked. They refused to consider any INSAT design that did 
not include a direct-broadcast television payload. To placate them, the INSAT design com- 
mittee, now a real working group with engineers from the Ministry of Telecommuni- 
cations, agreed to install a television transmitter comparable to the one used in SITE. 
However, the Planning Commission refused to sanction money for ground equipment, 
such as television sets and antennas. Such a compromise served only to save face. The 
activists in ISRO wanted to be prepared for an opportunity to renew SITE. On the dark 
side, this decision to include a SITE capability imposed tough design constraints on 
INSAT. For instance, it increased the power needed to keep the satellite alive. 

Why did Indian space technologists prefer not to design several single-purpose satel- 
lites? Each such satellite would have been fairly simple and built with proven, off-the-shelf 
technology. Building several satellites also would have spurred the serial production of an 
Indian space platform. The official answer to this obvious question is the economics of 
satellite launching. Because Indian rockets were incapable of launching a satellite into 
geostationary orbit, India had to purchase foreign launch services. 'There are no free 
launches," NASA told Dhawan. The Soviets did not launch geostationary satellites; their 
launch pads were too far north to achieve an equatorial orbit. The European Space Agency 
offered free launches, but only on experimental rockets. INSAT could not be risked on 
experimental rockets. Rough calculations showed that the launch costs of a multipurpose 
satellite would be lower than the cost of launching three or four smaller spacecraft. 

The technological patrimony of SITE especially influenced INSAT. The success of 
SITE, in a sense, blinded INSAT designers. The activist culture of the Indian space pro- 
gram did not permit leisure introspection. The shortage of skilled personnel ensured 
minimal dissent on technological alternatives. The United States — and Canada to some 
extent — lured away a significant number of elite Indian engineers and scientists, stunting 
the growth of a healthy scientific community. 

Moreover, ISRO progressively lost the ability to define the satellite. When Sarabhai 
succeeded Bhabha, he continued to follow his mentor's strategy without responding to 
changes in the geopolitical context. India did not command the same moral authority it 
had even in the early 1950s. Also, Sarabhai was not fully aware of the motivations 

226 The Unfolding of the World S\stem: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

prompting NASA and the United States on SITE. He could not foresee that SITE com- 
mitted the Indian space program to an expensive detour that would ultimately freeze 
unwieldy features, such as a television transmitter, into the second generation of INSAT 
satellites. After Sarabhai's death, the Indian space program had to compromise more to 
keep its allies. Dhawan had even less room to negotiate than Sarabhai. In the meantime, 
the space organization had grown into a large bureaucracy. In real terms, budgets did not 
grow at a healthy rate. Dhawan sought to balance carefully the diverse needs of his vari- 
ous allies, while preserving a demanding coalition. 

Not all of the payloads on INSAT had powerful patrons fighting for them. The 
Meteorological Department was not really interested in the satellite. Its clients were small 
farmers who did not know how to lobby for their share of technology. Yet, the designers 
of INSAT added the meteorological subsystems. In doing so, they made the satellite even 
more difficult technologically. To predict weather, INSAT designers placed a camera on 
the satellite. Thus, the satellite could send pictures of cloud movements that could be 
used to predict weather patterns. The camera required that the satellite be ten times more 
stable in space than it needed to be for the other missions. This added another dimension 
to INSAT's technological complexity. Why was the weather subsystem not left out? Who 
would have complained that INSAT did not predict the weather? A few people on the 
INSAT design committee experienced a deeply felt responsibility to the Indian farmer 
and stood their ground in design committee deliberations. India's efforts to get INSAT 
built required it to harness several payloads, to yoke several interests, and even to create 
new constituencies. INSAT became a crowded Indian bus. 


Indians do not enjoy concluding stories. For complex epics such as the Ramayana and 
Mahabharata, conclusions are often beginnings. In 1947, an independent Indian state 
came into being. Barely two years after independence, food shortages forced the govern- 
ment of India to beg from the West. The United States, especially under the Johnson 
administration, cynically sought to use India's food crisis to further its own Cold War agen- 
da. The uneasiness between the two countries is evident in the history of India's nuclear 
and space programs, especially when they are seen in the light of decolonization. 

The history of INSAT is also a case study in the emergence of a nation-state in South 
Asia. Nascent science and technology institutions learned to deal, trade, and negotiate with 
the West under the leadership of Bhabha and Sarabhai, both of whom came from mer- 
chant-industrialist families. Doing business with the rest of the world, a skill not in great 
demand during centuries of foreign oppression, was what INSAT taught some Indians. 

The rise of a professional, middle-class leadership in the Indian space and nuclear 
programs may be read as an indicator of the growing integration of the Indian nation- 
state into the family of nations. The politics of accommodation vividly illustrated by INSAT 
is at some level a comforting sign. The politics of foreign aid and the geopolitics of INSAT 
show India that nothing comes free. 

Chapter 17 

Footprints to the Future, Shadows of 

the Past: Toward a History of 

Communications Satellites in Asia 

by Brian Shoesmith 

"If a new means of communication makes its appearance, who are its patrons? If new 
knowledge is produced, who controls it and for what ends?" 

— Brian Stock 

"Satellites already have inspired one revolution in Asia. In the space of four years since 
Star TV was launched in Hong Kong on the Asiasat 1 spacecraft, satellite and cable have 
transformed the face of broadcasting in the region." 

— Brian Jeffries' 

Writing a history of satellites in Asia is like building a house on quicksand. For a start, 
there are contextual problems with the term Asia. Questions that quickly spring to mind 
are: Precisely whose Asia are we talking about? Which Asia are we speaking of? Then there 
is the technology itself. Satellites are a comparatively recent addition to the repertoire of 
available communications media, and their status remains largely unresolved as other 
communications technologies compete for markets. Furthermore, conditions surround- 
ing satellites in Asia are volatile: more satellites are launched; new regulations on their 
uses are announced by national governments; and new strategic alliances are forged 
among governments, satellite providers, and commercial broadcasters, thereby clouding 
the issues. 

In short, identifying the major trends and contributions to the evolving mediascape 
of Asia is difficult because things change, quite literally, over night. Consequently, the fol- 
lowing analysis of the forces shaping the current Asian communications satellite environ- 
ment is necessarily provisional. One should bear in mind that contingency seems to be the 
overwhelming determinant of the direction the communications industry has taken in 
Asia. Nevertheless, it is appropriate that a history of satellites in Asia be begun — if for no 
other reason than that, within a rapidly changing scene, there is a need to chart the foun- 
dations of what has become a powerful regional force — before they, too, are clouded by 
the forces of change. 

To understand how powerful an influence satellites have had, it is necessary to out- 
line briefly the mass media systems of Asia that have been challenged by the new tech- 
nology. The following discussion is a "broad-brush" approach. Clearly not all Asian media 
systems have developed along identical lines, nor have they been confronted with the 
same regulatory systems or subjected to the same levels of political censorship. 

1. Brian Stock, Listening for the Text: On the Uses of the Past (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University 
Press, 1990), p. 21; Brian Jeffries, The Sky's the Limil," Far Eastern Economic Review 158 (1995): 49. 


228 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Nevertheless, one can say that almost without exception the modern mass media in Asia 
were introduced into the region by the colonial powers. Inidally, it was the press, followed 
by radio then television, which formed the postcolonial Asian media inherited by the 
nadonalist regimes and melded into indigenous ideological systems. The media became 
indissolubly linked to localized concepts of development, being assigned an entirely dif- 
ferent sociopolidcal funcdon than that of the Western media. The media in Asia have 
developed within national ideological frameworks since at least the 1950s, and they are 
best exemplified by the Indonesian state ideology of pancasila} 

The significance of satellites lies in their potential to precisely and comprehensively 
subvert prior national systems of control of the media. The material presence of satellites 
in Asia has forced the various Asian governments to rethink their policies on broadcast- 
ing and communications. The corollary of this is that the political will of the Asian states 
to retain some vestige of control over their mediascape also has forced Western transna- 
tional broadcasters to reevaluate their broadcasting practices and ideologies.' 

A second feature of satellites requiring elucidation is their scope. When Apstar 2 final- 
ly gets into orbit, it will have a footprint that covers the whole Eurasian landmass, part of 
East Africa, and the western Pacific rim. All political boundaries and topographical imped- 
imenta will be transcended, fulfilling a trend begun in the Victorian era with the intro- 
duction of telegraphy.^ The geopolitical consequences inherent in this situation were 
recognized at the beginning of this century with the extension of telegraphy in the service 
of empire. As Halford J. Mackinder wrote in 1904: "For the first time we can perceive 
something of the real proportion of features and events on the stage of the whole world, 
and may seek a formula which shall express certain aspects ... of geographical causation 
in universal history." For the first time in history, there was a potential for an "empire of 
the world" dominated by whoever controlled the pivot area or "heartland" of Eurasia.'^ 

Satellites are more than artifacts of universal history, however. They also have pro- 
found commercial and cultural attributes. Since Rupert Murdoch purchased Star TV in 
1993 from the Hong Kong company Hutchinson Whampoa," a number of other European 
and U.S. communications companies, such as Pearson and NBC, have entered the domain 
of Asian satellite broadcasting.^ There is a view, generated largely by Asia's booming 
economies, that Asia holds a vast market of consumers waiting to be serviced by an end- 
less supply of consumer goods. In many respects, this view echoes that of the Manchester 
school of nineteenth-century England, which viewed China similarly as a vast market for 
their products and which influenced British foreign policy accordingly. ** 

2. The five principles of pancasila are: belief in a single supreme God; a just and civilized humanity; 
national unity; democracy, led by the wisdom of consensus among representatives; and social justice for the peo- 
ple of Indonesia. Edward Janner Sinaga, "Indonesia," in Achal Mehra, ed., Press Systems in ASEAN States 
(Singapore: Asian Mass Communication Research and Information Centre (AMIC), 1989), pp. 27-39, esp. p. 27. 

3. John Sinclair, The Business of International Broadcasting: Cultural Bridges and Barriers," paper 
read at Communications Research Forum, Sydney, 19-20 October 1995; Will Atkins, " 'Friendly and Useful': 
Rupert Murdoch and the Politics of Television in Southeast Asia, 1993-95," Media International Australia 77 
(August 1995): 54-64. 

4. James W. Carey, Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989) , 
pp. 201-23; Daniel Czitrom, Media and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan (Chapel Hill, NC: University of 
North Carolina Press, 1982), pp. 11-12. 

5. Cited in Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard 
University Press, 1983), p. 228. 

6. Atkins, " 'Friendly and Useful'," pp. 54-64. 

7. Nick Masters, "UK's Pearson secures a significant stake in TVB," Televisionasia, March 1995, p. 8. 

8. Mary Clabaugh Wright, The Last Stand of Chinese Conservatism: The T'ung-Chih Restoration, 1862-1874 
(Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957), pp. 23-33. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 229 

Technological issues also must be addressed. Three in particular stand out. First, the 
ability to develop and maintain a satellite infrastructure implies a powerful economic base 
and technological sophistication. Second, access to satellite technology also implies a com- 
plicated set of international relations. In reality, only the United States at the end of the 
Cold War had the necessary economic power to develop an autonomous satellite pro- 
gram. All other programs were hybrids combining, in varying degrees, local technology 
with imported technologies. Thus, the disastrous Apstar 2 launch in January 1995 com- 
bined a satellite developed by the American company Hughes Aerospace with a Chinese 
Long March rocket. The hybrid technology approach first developed in India where local- 
ly fabricated satellites were combined with either U.S., Russian, or French rockets 
throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Australia adopted similar strategies in the mid-1980s 
with the launch of AUSSAT. Europe has formed its own consortium to produce commu- 
nications satellites and at the same time make the technology available to others who wash 
to put satellites into orbit. Thus, one can suggest that communications satellites are the 
product of complex global technological systems that include Asia structurally as a part- 
ner, unlike previous world communications systems that included Asia only as a client. 

Finally, there is the question of the relationship between technology and culture. 
Social scientists still have a tendency to characterize explanatory systems of change that 
feature technology as deterministic." Unfortunately, the specter of technological deter- 
minism will not disappear, irrespective of whether it is couched in terms of "hard," "soft," 
or technological momentum when the relationship between technology and culture is dis- 
cussed. The heat generated by discussions of technological determinism clarifies nothing. 
Regarding communications technologies, it would be preferable to use the Innisian term 
"bias."'" Harold A. Innis placed communications technologies at the core of cultural activ- 
ity and argued, persuasively, that all such technologies have either a temporal or spatial 
bias. These arguments are well rehearsed and require little elaboration here," except to 
say that communications satellites have the most pronounced spatial bias of any commu- 
nications technology yet devised. Apstar 2 is the exemplary case. 

If we view communications satellites simply as artifacts, we can only formulate a par- 
tial account of their history. There is no doubt that technical developments in rocketry, 
solid state circuitry, digitization, and miniaturization all have played crucial roles in the 
unfolding history, and any comprehensive account has to accord them due significance. 
According to Carolyn Marvin, though, "the early history of electric media is less the evo- 
lution of technical efficiencies in communication than a series of arenas for negotiating 
issues crucial to the conduct of social life,"'^ and "[W]hen audiences become organized 
around these uses, the history of the new medium begins."'^ With these factors in mind, 
this discussion proposes a history of communications satellites in Asia that has three dis- 
tinct stages — all of them linked to the development of television as a medium in Asia. 

Stage one lasts approximately from 1962 until the late 1980s and is characterized by a 
perception that satellites should be harnessed for development purposes, placing them 
securely in the public sector sphere of broadcasting history. Stage two is a short, transi- 
tional period spanning the end of the 1980s and is characterized by a response among 
Asian governments to the end of the Cold War. Stage three begins in 1991 and is 

9. Merrit Roe Smith and Leo Marx, eds., Does Technology Drive History? The Dilemma of Technological 
Determinism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994), passim. 

10. Harold A. Innis, The Bias of Communication (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), passim. 

11. William Melody, Liorar Salter, and Paul Heyer, eds., Culture, Communication and Dependency: The 
Tradition of H.A. Innis (Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 1981), passim; David Crowley and Paul Heyer, Communication and 
History, first ed. (New York: Longmans, 1991), passim. 

12. Carolyn Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric Communication in the Late 
Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 4. 

13. Ibid., p. 5. 

230 The Unfolding of the World Svstem: Geography, Poutics, and Culture 

characterized by the dominance of commercial forces in Asian broadcasting. In making 
these distinctions, they are not posited as exclusive. They are clearly not exclusive, as the 
transformation of development communication from a didactic practice to a postmodern 
application demonstrates.'^ Moreover, public broadcasting retains a strong presence in 
Asia. In short, what are described here are dominant trends. 

In the Public Sphere 

Asia officially entered the space age in 1965 with the founding of the Centre for 
Training and Research in Satellite Communication for Developing Countries in 
Ahmedabad, India, under the direction of Vikram A. Sarabhai, although research had 
begun earlier in 1962."^ This discussion of satellite communications in Asia during in the 
period 1965-1988 is organized around three themes: (1) the carryover of an ideology of 
public broadcasting into satellite communications that was consonant with Asian political 
ideals based on notions of development and nationalism; (2) a view that satellites were an 
expensive and scarce resource whose use should be limited to development communica- 
tion; and (3) problems of regulation by international bodies that emphasized a "first- 
come, first-serve" basis — principals that were contentious because, even at the earliest 
stages, they were perceived as disadvantaging the developing nations. The period is also 
characterized by a shift away from India toward China as the principal space-oriented 
nation in Asia. The shift is emblematic of China's changing economic and political status 
in Asia, signifying changing geopolitical realities that will inform this discussion. 

Sarabhai was both visionary and persuasive"^ and had a clear agenda for satellite com- 
munications in India. That agenda was to serve the educational needs of India's rural pop- 
ulation rather than the entertainment wants of the urban masses. He forcefully articulat- 
ed a developmental ideology that has governed India's use of satellites until very recent- 
ly. It must be acknowledged, however, that broadcasting in India at the time was not only 
limited, but highly bureaucratized, and it was aimed principally at education and infor- 
mation, placing a very low priority on entertainment. Thus, both terrestrial and satellite 
communications in India were locked into the public sphere and organized accordingly. 

It was not just domestic policy that shaped Indian space policy in this period. Under 
the leadership ofjawaharlal Nehru, India became the leading exponent of nonalignment 
in international affairs and thus sought aid and advice from both sides in the Cold War. 
This policy applied to satellite technology as much as any other aspect of Indian realpolitik. 
Between 1967 and 1979, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) cooperated with 
NASA, the Soviet Union, and the Franco-German Symphonic program on space projects. 
In 1967, ISRO negotiated with NASA for access to its Applications Technology Satellite 
(ATS) -6 spacecraft for one year to conduct the Satellite Instructional Television 
Experiment (SITE) . In 1975, India launched its Aryabhata research satellite using a Soviet 
rocket in 1975, and later, during 1977-1979, India conducted the Symphonic 
Telecommunications Experimental Project (STEP) with the Franco-German Symphonic 
satellite administration. The outcome of these collaborations was that India had the most 
advanced space program in Asia by the end of the 1970s. This effort probably for the most 
part dissipated because it was too oriented toward development and too heavily bureau- 
cratized. The experience of SITE exemplifies the situation that developed. 

14. Pat Howard, The Confrontation of Modern and Traditional Knowledge Systems in Development," 
Canadian Journal of Communication 19 (1994), 

15. Heather Hudson, Communication Satellites: Their Development and Impact (New York: The Free Press, 
1990), pp. 202-07. 

16. Ibid., p. 202. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 231 

In 1967, engineers from ISRO visited NASA to study the ATS-6 satellite to assess 
whether its capabilities suited their needs for developing SITE, a rural-based instruction- 
al network in India. The manner in which SITE was set up, organized, operated 
(1975-1976), and evaluated is now well known." What SITE revealed was a set of fissures 
within the Indian state apparatus. By placing responsibility for SITE in the hands of the 
ISRO, the government unwittingly turned it into a site of conflict over who "owned" the 
public sphere. Doordarshan (the Indian national television broadcaster) felt it had sole 
responsibility for broadcasting; officials from the Ministry of Telecommunications argued 
that they controlled telephony. The other administrative units, such as health, education, 
agriculture, and family planning, for whose programs the technology was specifically 
designed to facilitate, felt that the experiment was a drain on their respective resources.'* 
Its problems were even more acute, however; the program had no concept of an audi- 
ence — neither its needs nor its desires. 

SITE serviced 2,400 remote villages, each of which was supplied with battery-driven 
television sets under the care of a village guardian. Specially designed programs were 
broadcast and then evaluated by teams of academic sociologists, psychologists, and devel- 
opmental theorists. In retrospect, SITE was a classic example of top-down planning and 
execution divorced from the needs of its clientele. Leela Rao points out that the custodian 
of the television set was the single most important component of the chain of command. 
Quite frequendy, these individuals were teachers who, as the state's chief functionary in the 
village, had a range of activities competing for their time and attention.'^ In most cases, they 
placed television last in their priorities. Moreover, although SITE's ideology was vigorously 
anti-entertainment, it was the popular Hindi films screened on Sunday nights that attract- 
ed the largest audiences and that significandy provided the programs audiences remem- 
bered best.''" The net effect of SITE was to lock India into a terrestrial system of broadcast- 
ing and telecommunications that only ceased to dominate in the 1990s. 

India continued to develop expertise in space and satellite technology through the 
1970s and 1980s. However, it was expertise largely directed toward servicing the Indian 
bureaucracy rather than the population at large. It was also expertise that was rigorously 
localized. India manufactured the components used in SITE — a fact determined by 
India's economic policy of self-sufficiency. During 1981-1982, STEP involved a satellite 
"designed and fabricated in India"^' and launched on an Ariane rocket. The expertise 
thus acquired was translated into the INSAT project, which included four Indian satellites 
launched between 1982 and 1985. The problem of the excess technical capacity created 
by those launches was solved only by the move away from the public sphere and develop- 
mental ideology of the 1960s and 1970s to the marketplace ideology that currently pre- 
vails. Nevertheless, television expanded exponentially throughout India, as INSAT 
became operational, and created a massive rural and urban audience for entertainment 
programs. Television also became the site for increasing political argument and intellec- 
tual dispute, as India moved away from a command to a market economy. ^^ 

17. Leela Rao, "Medium and the Message: an Indian experience," in Neville Jayaweera and Sarath 
Anunugama, eds., Rethinking Development Communication (Singapore: AMIC, 1987), pp. 176-90; Srinivas R. 
Melkote, Communication for Development in the Third World: Theory and Practice (New Delhi: Sage, 1991), passim; 
Hudson, Communication Satellites, pp. 202-04. 

18. Hudson, Communication Satellites, p. 203. 

19. Rao, "Medium and the Message," p. 188. 

20. Ibid., pp. 188-89. 

21. Hudson, Communication Satellites, p. 204. 

22. Geoffrey W. Reeves, Indian Television: The State, Privatisation and the Strug^ for Autonomy, Occasional 
Paper 3 (Perth: Centre for Asian Communication and Media Studies, 1994). 

232 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

The second country in Asia to acquire a regional communications satellite was 
Indonesia, which launched Palapa 1 in 1976. The name Palapa is highly significant in the 
lexicon of Indonesian political ideology; it has symbolized harmony and unity to 
Indonesian people since at least the thirteenth century. The introduction of Palapa 1, 
according to Philip Kitely, was "driven by polidcal and ideological imperatives concerned 
with nadon building and circuladon of ideas of national culture."-' Indonesia is an archi- 
pelagic nadon formed in 1945 and composed of more than 300 ethnic groups with as 
many languages and dialects. Bahasa Indonesian was invented as a language in the 1920s 
and adopted during the 1930s as the nadonal language by the nadonalists, who con- 
sciously used the mass media and educadon to establish it on a national foodng. However, 
Bahasa has always coexisted in tension with local and regional languages, and it could 
never be guaranteed preeminence in the face of tradidon and custom undl the advent of 
satellite broadcasdng. Technocrats who came to prominence in the administradon of 
Indonesia during the 1970s realized that the spadal and cultural bias of satellites served 
their ideological ends well and advocated the introducdon of communicadons satellites 
during the early 1970s. In 1976, Indonesia became the third country in the world, after 
Canada and the United States,-' to install a geostationary satellite for domestic communi- 
cations purposes. 

The introduction of Palapa 1 accelerated the growth of television and telecommuni- 
cadons in Indonesia. The government funded the construcdon of an addidonal eleven 
ground stadons, which distributed the state-owned TVRI channel throughout Indonesia. 
Moreover, private capital constructed television stations on the outer islands, giving rise to 
a commercial regional television system.-^ However, these private regional stations were 
prohibited, by law, from broadcasting nationally, which was the preserve of the state- 
owned TVRI channel. The public nature of television in Indonesia was enhanced in 1981 
when advertising was banned. Up until that time, TVRI had carried advertising, which cov- 
ered more than 90 percent of its production costs by 1976-1977.'-" The ban on advertising 
marked a particular stage in developmental thinking in Indonesia, which emphasized 
industrial development within a framework of "balanced growth."" 

The particular convergence of satellites with state-directed patterns of growth had two 
unintended consequences for communication in Indonesia. First, the use of satellites to 
distribute information meant that audiences were no longer dependent on terrestrial ser- 
vices to receive images, messages, and meanings. From the early 1980s, a proliferation of 
privately owned parabolic dishes in urban centers had a profound effect on television 
watching in Indonesia.-*' The possession of a parabola effectively meant that viewers were 
no longer dependent on locally produced television for information and entertainment; 
they could tune in to any provider that was beaming in their direction. CNNI (Cable News 

23. Philip Kitely, "Fine Tuning Control: Commercial Television in Indonesia," Continuum: The Australian 
Journal of Media and Culture S (1994): 102-23, esp. 103. 

24. There is confusion on this issue. The Soviet Union is usually written out of the equation. The coun- 
tries are the United States, Canada, and Indonesia. 

25. Kitely, "Fine Tuning Control," p. 104. 

26. Ibid. 

27. Howard Dick, James J. Fox, and Jamie Mackie, eds.. Balanced Development: East Java in the New Carder 
(London: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 13. 

28. Brian Shoesmith and Hart Cohen, "Cultural Values of Media and Asian Audiences: Local Responses 
to Global Media," forthcoming in Asian Journal of Communications. These comments also are based on research 
conducted in East Java during 1994-1995 on the impact of satellite broadcasting on the middle classes of 
Surabaya with the author's colleagues Hart Cohen (University of Western Sydney at Nepean), Basis Susilo, 
Andarini Susanto, Rachmah Ida, and Emy Susanto (Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Univeritas Airlangga, 
Surabaya) . 

Beyond the Ionosphere 


Figure 30 

Indonesian delegation in special support room, Johnson Space Center, Houston, during the deployment of the Palapa 3 com- 
munications satellite by the Space Shuttle (STS-7). Palapa 3 was the second of two communications satellites placed in orbit 
during the STS-7 mission. (Courtesy of NASA, photo no. 83-HC-406) 

Network International) thus gained a foothold in the middle-class, tertiary-educated 
Indonesian audience. The ban on advertisements also had an impact on Indonesian tele- 
vision insofar as it "lessened TVRI's appeal. "^^ This in turn encouraged viewers to sample 
foreign language programming — meaning that, almost by default, Indonesia acquired an 
"open skies" satellite-broadcasting policy that has been quite at odds with the communi- 
cations policies of its neighbors. 

The second important consequence was that Indonesia became a regional distributor 
of television programming. Intelsat's initial approval for Palapa forbade international 
broadcasting, but the Asian Broadcasting Union began using the service for program 
exchange. By 1981, Thailand and Pakistan booked time on the satellite for their own 
domestic programming because it was cheaper than Intelsat.* Indonesia became both a 
domestic and international supplier of satellite broadcasting within a very short time peri- 
od — something that has developed considerably as Indonesia has improved its satellite 
capacity. ATV, the Australian international television service, has rented a transponder 
from Palapa since its inception in 1993." 

During the mid-1980s, three events occurred in Indonesia that radically altered the 
national mediascape — all of which were related to both satellite communication and 
domestic politics. First, in 1986, advertising was reintroduced to Indonesian television. 
Second, in 1989, RCTI (Rajawah Citra Televisi Indonesia), the first commercially owned 

29. Kitely, "Fine Tuning Control," p. 105. 

30. AMIC, Satellite Technology: The Communication Equaliser: An AMIC Compilation (Singapore: AMIC, 
1985), p. 76. 

31. Brian Shoesmith, "Asia in Their Shadow: Asia and Satellites," Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science 
22 (1994): 125-43. 

234 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

television station, was established in Jakarta. Third, in 1993, the Indonesian government 
lifted the bans preventing the commercial regional broadcasters from broadcasting nation- 
ally. Subsequently, RCTI rapidly became Indonesia's most popular television station. 

While the state retained ultimate control over broadcasting, the dominance of com- 
mercial television over the state system in Indonesia is a manifestation of what Philip Kitely 
has called "patrimonial relations."'^ RCTI is controlled by one of President Suharto's sons, 
TPI (the educational broadcaster) is run by a daughter, and the owners of the other com- 
mercial stations have strong links to Suharto family interests. 

The other Asian nation in which notions of the public sphere and the public good 
shaped attitudes toward satellite communication is China, of course. China is discussed 
more extensively below, but two points should be made here. Compared with India and 
Indonesia, China entered the realm of satellite broadcasting relatively late, launching its 
first geostationary satellite in 1983. It can be argued that this delay reflected certain atti- 
tudes toward communication and technology within the Chinese ideological framework 
between 1949 and 1977, in which communication was geared around pervasiveness with 
minimum technology — namely, the press, radio, and loudspeaker.'' Television, as a late 
addition to the repertoire of propaganda tools available to the Communist Party of China, 
never acquired the same status for propaganda as the press or radio, both of which res- 
onated with Maoist principles about the mass line. Indeed, Chinese authorities have tend- 
ed to see television largely in terms of entertainment rather than political ideology — a 
view shared by the audience. Consequently, the provision of communications satellites to 
distribute television was not a high priority of the Chinese government. In the period fol- 
lowing the introduction of the Deng economic reforms in 1977, however, television 
underwent a surge in terms of both hardware and interest among audiences. Instead of 
being a scarce resource, television became commonplace throughout China and built up 
expectations among the audience that the government found difficult to meet.'^ 

As in India and Indonesia, television in China underwent dramatic changes during 
the 1980s, with the introduction of advertising, access to foreign programming, and the 
presence of transborder communication through Star TV. Nonetheless, the evoludon of 
television from the public sphere to the marketplace in China is less pronounced than in 
India or Indonesia, because the Chinese state has applied a unique set of conditions on 
its development. 


No one event can be identified as the causal factor in bringing about the change from 
public sphere broadcasting to commercially dominated broadcasting in Asia. A combina- 
tion of exogenous and exogamous factors are at play. Similar to the rest of the world, pub- 
lic sphere broadcasting in Asia came under attack for economic and ideological reasons.'* 
Moreover, Asia became enmeshed in international broadcasting events through Intelsat 
and the various nongovernmental organizations responsible for the regulation of global 
broadcasting, such as the allocation of orbit slots. "^ 

32. Kitely, "Fine Tuning Control," p. 116. 

33. A. Doak Barnett, Jr., "China: Some Generalizations, Hypotheses, and Questions for Research," in 
Afa55 Communication Review Yearbook, Vol. 1 (London: Sage, 1980), pp. 620-27. 

34. Wang Handong, "Chinese Television in the 1990s," in Brian Shoesmith, ed.. Three Aspects of the 
Chinese Media (Perth: Centre for Asian Communication, Media and Cultural Studies, 1996); James Lull, China 
Turned On: Television, Reform and Resistance (London: Routledge, 1991). 

35. Jonathan Karp, "TV Times," Far Eastern Economic Review 157 (15 December 1994): 56-60. 

36. Hudson, Communication Satellites, pp. 251-62. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 235 

The shifts in the changing mediascapes of India, Indonesia, and China outlined above 
are in line with trends in international communication. Running parallel with these 
trends is the remarkable economic transformation that has gripped Asia since the mid- 
1980s, especially in urban centers. This economic transformation has led to significant 
changes in consumption habits, some would argue, fueled by television. The internal 
dynamic of countries such as China and Indonesia, which will have the first and fifth 
largest economies, respectively, in terms of gross domestic product by the year 2020,^' con- 
tribute greatly toward changing technological patterns. Significandy, however, these 
changes emerged and developed as the Cold War ended, suggesting that the respective 
governments and peoples took stock of the situation and then developed new social and 
cultural practices that access to television encapsulated. Throughout Asia during the late 
1980s, television became a common item in the domestic setting, creating audiences who 
developed both expectations about what they wished to see and sophisticated ways of look- 
ing at what they saw. Returning to Carolyn Marvin, the history of the medium begins 
"when audiences become organized around . . . uses."^* 

The Level Playing Field 

Much of what has happened in Asia between 1990 and 1995 regarding satellite com- 
munications is too recent and too complex for detailed analysis in a work of this scope. 
However, it is argued here that the transformation of communications in Asia associated 
with the introduction of satellite transmission is unprecedented. So powerful is the per- 
ceived influence of satellite broadcasting that we find Asian governments adopting con- 
tradictory positions regarding their regulation. National governments variously have 
invented ideological systems to combat the cultural pollution that satellites are alleged to 
bring in their wake, and at the same time they have competed fiercely to enter the satel- 
lite age: all self-respecting Asian countries now have a satellite or at least rent transponder 

Furthermore, satellite relations are no longer conducted on a government-to- 
government basis. When Rupert Murdoch visits an Asian country, he is virtually accorded 
"head-of-nation" status. When he visited India in 1993, it was alleged that all that was miss- 
ing was the twenty-one-gun salute. Murdoch was the most obvious example of this trend, 
but as other powerful commercial interests enter the satellite field, an analysis of their 
operations becomes as much a question of market relations as international relations 
between governments. Complicating this even further are the nongovernmental organi- 
zations, such as the Asian Broadcasting Union, the International Telecommunications 
Union, and UNESCO, which play a regulatory role. Thus, contemporary conditions sur- 
rounding satellite communications in Asia involve three levels at the very least: commer- 
cial enterprises (both indigenous and transnational), the nation-state, and nongovern- 
mental organizations. These relationships are explored here with reference to three 
aspects of the current situation — namely, the introduction of Star TV into Asia, recent 
developments in China, and telecommunications. 

Although it was previously argued that there is no one dominant causal event shaping 
recent developments in satellite communications in Asia, there can be no doubt also that 
the launch of Asiasat 1 in 1990 radically altered the communications equation in the 
region. It dramatically extended the broadcast footprint covering virtually all of the 

37. "War of the Worlds: A Survey of the Global Economy," Economist 333 (October 1994) : 1-44. 

38. Marvin, Wien Old Technologies Were New, p. 5. 

236 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

western Pacific rim, Central Asia, and South Asia, providing a potential audience of three 
billion persons to advertisers. It also was privately owned rather than a state initiative. The 
principals were CTI (China), Hutchinson Whampoa (Hong Kong), and Cable and 
Wireless (Britain). Star (Satellite Television Asia Region) TV was created shortly after — 
mainly through the initiative of Richard Li, son of Li Ka-shang, a Hong Kong property 
developer, a billionaire, and a principal of Hutchinson Whampoa. 

Around the same period as the launch of Asiasat 1, China (ChinaSat 3), Indonesia 
(Palapa B2R), Japan, and India all launched communications satellites, presenting Star 
TV with massive competition at the national level. Consequently, Star TV had to invent 
Pan-Asian broadcasting. It did so by developing strategies whereby it piggybacked existing 
services, such as BBCWST (BBC World Service Television), MTV, and ESPN, while at the 
same time developing its own production profile. There was a degree of ambivalence 
toward Star TV on the part of the television industry in Asia and the various nation-states. 
As a new concept, it faced considerable criticism and misunderstanding. For example, the 
Chinese were always suspicious of transborder broadcasting for ideological reasons. The 
fact that Star TV carried BBCWST, which offended Chinese authorities on a number of 
occasions, fueled their suspicions. Hong Kong, the base for Star TV, was reluctant to let 
them broadcast into the colony. The greatest enthusiasm for Star TV came from the 
transnational advertising industry, which grasped at the possibility of creating a vast Pan- 
Asian consumer market. However, what transformed Star TV from a marginal operation 
in global broadcasting was News Corporation's (Murdoch's) decision to purchase a 
64-percent controlling interest in Star TV for $550 million (U.S. dollars) in 1993. 
Murdoch quietly purchased the remaining stock in January 1995, thereby gaining total 
control of the broadcasting company, although the original partners retained control of 
the satellite, and Richard Li kept the Hong Kong broadcast license.-^" 

Murdoch's pronouncement that "the advancements in the technology of telecommu- 
nications have proved an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere"^ 
highlights the potential for ideological conflict over satellite broadcasting in Asia. China 
immediately banned its citizens from watching Star and other transborder television pro- 
grams. As John Sinclair pointed out, "the announcement, which was designed for con- 
sumption by Western shareholders of News Corporation, seemed a fair characterization of 
the attitude with which national leaders in the erstwhile Third World regarded this new 
technology in the 1970s and 1980s. Yet it has proved hollow. . . .'"" Under Murdoch, Star 
TV continued a Pan-Asian approach built around English as the major linguistic medium 
and his American Fox Television product, but the loss of the Chinese market made that 
strategy problematic. Aggressive marketing in India and the eventual purchase of 49.9 per- 
cent of Zee TV in December 1994 partially compensated for the loss of China. However, 
Star TV also continued to attract political and cultural criticism from other Asian states. 
Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamed Mahathir proved the most forceful critic; he sug- 
gested that Murdoch was seeking to impose Western values on Asia and thereby corrupt 
and pollute Asian societies, while at the same time controlling Asian broadcasting.^^ Such 
criticism was damaging and led Star to develop more "culturally sensitive" programming. 
Meanwhile, Murdoch practiced shuttle diplomacy, meeting with Malaysian, Indian, 
Japanese, and Indonesian leaders seeking to establish Star TV in their nations. Star also 

39. Atkins, " 'Friendly and Useful'," pp. 54-64. 

40. Stephen Hutcheon, "Murdoch Makes Amends," The Age 21 (January 1995), p. H. 

41. John Sinclair, 'The Business of International Broadcasting: Cultural Bridges and Barriers," paper 
read at the Communications Research Forum, Sydney, 19-20 October 1995, p. 3. 

42. Brian Shoesmith, "Asia in Their Shadow: Asia and Satellites," Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science 
22 (1994): 125-43; Atkins, " 'Friendly and Useful'," pp. 54-64. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 237 

dropped BBCWST from its northeast Asian transponder in an effort to mollify the 
Chinese authorities and at the same time promised "noncontroversial" programming on 
its northeast service/"' 

Underlying much of the discussion about satellite communications are assumptions 
about globalism and the demise of the nation-state. Marjorie Ferguson has questioned 
these assumptions and shown them to be fallacious/^ The Asian experience tends to sup- 
port Ferguson's contention that arguments about globalism are predicated on the desire 
of capitalism to maximize its profitability. The Economist''-' observed that Murdoch had been 
savaged economically by his experience with Sky television in Britain and that there was 
no economic nor commercial evidence to suggest that Star TV would perform any better 
in the short to mid-term. Indeed, it was announced in the fall of 1995 that Star TV would 
lose $100 million in the next year/'' significantly higher than previously published figures. 
It is clear that if Star TV is to succeed financially, it cannot afford to offend the leaders of 
the Asian states, and it has begun to develop programming strategies accordingly. 
Consequently, critics see Star as becoming more anodyne and commercially oriented, 
seeking security for its investment rather than blazing a trail for democracy in Asia.^' 

The point here is that Star TV, through its praxis, has thrown into doubt all of the 
prognoses about the impending demise of the nation-state. On the contrary, what the Star 
TV experience has demonstrated is that while transborder broadcasting via satellite has 
had a profound effect on the way terrestrial mediascapes are organized, it in no way 
undermines national sovereignty unless the government has lost the "mandate of heav- 
en." China's role in this unfolding history is a case in point. 

China has a comprehensive domestic satellite system that was established in 1983 with 
the launch of ChinaSat 1. China, including Tibet, is serviced by satellite television; even 
the most remote areas have access to a minimum of four Central China Television (CCTV) 
channels. In the larger urban areas, audiences can access up to twenty-two channels. In 
addition to this domestic service, China, if it chooses, may access a full range of global and 
regional satellite services. For example, the Indonesian Palapa C series satellites include 
southern China within their footprint. Despite the fact that there are an estimated 40,000 
parabolic dishes in China, none of these services are accessed except under the most strin- 
gent of conditions. The Chinese polity always has assumed that it has total control over 
communications within its boundaries, irrespective of its political allegiances, and the pre- 
sent decaying regime always has resisted transborder incursions. 

Surprisingly, the 1993 bans on relaying Star TV signals throughout China have been 
successful for two reasons. First, when the government issued new regulations that limit- 
ed satellite reception to three categories of receivers (foreign enclaves, luxury hotels, and 
selected educational institutions),'" it had the support of the Chinese television industry. 
Since 1985, the Chinese television industry has been owned by the state, but it has oper- 
ated along commercial lines. The industry was unhappy that much needed advertising 
revenue was being denied by transborder broadcasting. Second, since the late 1980s, the 
Chinese television industry had become professionalized. Although ideologues still hold 

43. Geetikar Pathania, "Ambivalence in STAR-ry Eyed Land: Doordarshan and the Satellite Television 
Challenge," Sagarl (1994), 

44. Marjorie Ferguson, 'The Mythology About Globalization," European Journal of Communication 1 
(1992): 69-93. 

45. "Murdoch's Asian Bet," The Economist 328 (31 July 1993): 13-14. 

46. Deborah Brewster, "$1.34 bn Profit a News Record," The Australian, 23 August 1995, p. 42. 

47. Pathania, "Ambivalence in STAR-ry Eyed Land." 

48. Joseph Man Chan, "National Responses and Accessibility to STAR TV in Asia," Journal of 
Communication '^A (1994): 112-31. 

238 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

key positions within the Chinese media administration, the numerous local television sta- 
tions that form the Chinese hybrid television infrastructure of cable, microwave, and satel- 
lite are staffed by people driven by professional concerns. Chinese programs are now slick- 
ly produced and marketed. 

As television became woven into the fabric of contemporary Chinese life,^^ the author- 
ities understood that they had to continue providing a service similar to that which had 
developed between 1980 and 1993, when foreign programming had been freely available. 
The Chinese government opted for a fully developed cable system, believing that it pro- 
vided greater opportunity for the effortiess control of the circulation of meanings.'^" More 
than 5,000 cable operations exist in China. Many of these are Industrial Community 
Television operations set up during the 1970s and early 1980s to enhance the spread of 
CCTV throughout China, while others are clearly illegal operations. The largest cable 
operators, such as those in Shanghai, Beijing, and Wuhan, have an estimated 700,000, 
600,000, and 300,000 subscribers, respectively. 

By attempting to create an environment that protects their communications integrity 
and political sovereignty, the Chinese authorities have created a highly contradictory sit- 
uation for their regime. Satellites transcend space and create highly centralized institu- 
tions, as well as particular textual communities^' consonant with Chinese political theories 
that have emphasized centralized authority as the preferred model. In contrast, cable tele- 
vision tends to lean toward regionalism, both in terms of pragmatics and as a bias. In 
China, this problem is best exemplified in language. As W.J.F. Jenner pointed out,^^ when 
we talk about Chinese dialects, we are accepting a centralized view of the world. What 
passes for dialects in China are mutually unintelligible languages bound together by a uni- 
versalizing script. Until now, no other medium of communication has been sufficiently 
powerful to challenge this particular hegemony. Television may be the exception. A sys- 
tem based essentially along regional lines presents centralist ideologies with particular 
problems, not the least of which is a tendency for local languages to be heard more fre- 
quently. This fact has not escaped the attention of the Chinese Ministry of Radio, Film, 
and Television, which has decided to reintroduce the concept of "one region, one net- 
work," in which domestic satellites combine with cable to ensure the central authorities a 
degree of control, as the prevailing broadcasting model for China in the 1990s. This sug- 
gests that in a mediascape increasingly shaped by new communications technologies, 
nation-states may survive the trend toward globalism for particularistic cultural reasons, 
but may not survive the forces of localism. In many respects, the nation-states of Asia, as 
creations of colonial powers in an earlier stage of globalism, are better equipped to con- 
front the issues of globalism than the problems associated with the premodern articulat- 
ed in localistic demands for ethnopolitical autonomy. 

One may be forgiven for thinking from this account that communications satellites 
are concerned almost exclusively with problems of transborder television. This is clearly 
not the case; communications satellites are capable of much more than merely broad- 
casting television signals. Indeed, it may be that the role satellites have in the global capi- 
tal system — facilitating the instantaneous global electronic transfer of trillions of dollars 
on a daily basis — is more culturally transformative than the broadcast of soap operas. 

49. James Lull, China Turned On: Television, Reform and Resistance (London: Routledge, 1991), passim. 

50. These comments are based on research conducted in Wuhan, People's Republic of China, in 1995 
with the author's colleague Wang Handong (Wuhan University) . 

51. On textual communities, see Stock, Listening for the Text, passim; Marvin, When Old Technologies Were 
New, passim. 

52. W.J.F. Jenner, The Tyranny of History: The Roots of China's Crisis (London: Penguin, 1994), passim. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 239 

Furthermore, their increasing role in expanding telephony also may have radical impli- 
cations for Asian cultures. It is to this aspect of communications satellites that this discus- 
sion turns. 

With the exceptions of Singapore and Hong Kong, terrestrial telephone services in 
Asia are antiquated and generally inefficient. For example, it can take up to two years to 
have a telephone installed in China, following normal channels. Communications satel- 
lites have altered this situation dramatically. Handheld telephony has developed into an 
area of intense activity and competition throughout Asia. What we are witnessing is a con- 
vergence of Western technology and local capital to establish satellite-driven technologies 
that bypass older systems of telephony. Three examples will illustrate the significance of 
this trend. 

Asia Cellular Satellite Systems (known as ACeS) is based in Jakarta, financed by 
Indonesian, Filipino, and Thai capital, and uses American technology (Lockheed Martin 
satellites and rockets). It will service India, Bangladesh, Burma, China, Korea, Japan, 
Hong Kong, Indochina, Thailand, Malaysia, and Burma. The Afro-Asian Satellite 
Company is financed with Indian money and serviced by the Hughes Space and 
Communication International. Asia Pacific Mobile Telecom is jointly owned by China 
(75 percent) and Singapore (25 percent); Hughes, Lockheed Martin, and Space 
Systems/Lorel are all bidding to supply the technology. Moreover, we are not discussing 
geostationary satellites here; the companies involved in expanding telephony in Asia are 
exploring medium and low satellite orbits as options for providing services.^^ This suggests 
that the technological lag of the past between East and West in most cases has dissipated. 

Parabolic dishes and handheld telephones are largely the domain of the Asian mid- 
dle classes, but their potential to alter endogamous cultural relations may be of greater 
significance than television's capacity to effect changes, which has attracted so much 
attention. The systems structured around telephony are more intensely personal and 
immediate than television; they impact directly on individual temporal and spatial 
regimes in unprecedented and novel ways.^^ By contrast, Asia has been imbricated in var- 
ious economic world systems since the Roman era, because its products have been in high 
demand on world markets. Asian cultures have learned to deal effectively with foreign 
economic and cultural incursions. Global economic systems are not new phenomena; it is 
the conditions under which they operate to establish economic ascendancy that has 
changed. In his classic account of the Canadian fur industry, Harold Innis observed that 
the "First People of North America" became enmeshed in an international economic sys- 
tem with the sale of their first fur to a trader. ■■' Communications satellites in Asia, to a 
degree, register a set of changing economic power relations where technological transfer 
is being replaced by technological dialogue — for example, Hughes Space, Lockheed 
Martin, and Space Systems/Lorel bid for Asian business. Their success in this arena 
becomes crucial to their success as commercial operators, which can be viewed as radically 
different from the Asian engineers who went to NASA during the 1960s to learn about 
space technology. 

53. Faith Keenan, "Looks Who's Talking: Newcomers Face Huge Risks as Well as Vast Potential Markets," 
Far Eastern Economic Review 158 (1995): .S8-46. 

54. The author's postgraduate student Kenneth Staples is currently researching the mobile phone in 
Perth. One of his findings is how people rethink their ideas about place when they begin using a mobile phone. 

55. Harold A. Innis, The Fur Trade of Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History, rev. ed. 
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970), passim. 

240 The Unfolding of the World S\stem: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

However, it is the impact made by technologies at the microlevel that is ultimately 
more important. Few media analysts in the West accept any longer the "bullet theory of 
communications" that grants the sender almost total control in the communicative 
process. Rather, the receiver is perceived as the most important element in the commu- 
nications chain. This percepdon has led to notions of the active audience becoming dom- 
inant in thinking about the relationship among text, audience, and the institudons of 
communicadons. This nodon has been articulated clearly in respect to television viewing, 
but not so clearly in respect to the new telecommunicadons technologies. Nevertheless, 
there may be a degree of correlation between the active television audience and the active 
user of telecommunications. Furthermore, if we accept that the Western audience is an 
active producer of meaning, we also must accept that Asian audiences are active in the 
same way. Any other approach is fraught with dangers. Yet, much of the discussion around 
the supposed impact of the new communications technologies on Asian audiences and 
receivers is couched in terms of the passive. It is alleged that television introduces con- 
cepts and ideas that traduce Asian cultures, corrupt the young, and pollute the moral 
environment. These arguments are probably peddled not because the speakers believe 
them, but because they believe that the messages the technologies make available to the 
mass audiences, apparently without effort, challenge the established bases of power. 
Herein lies the terrain of the history of communications in Asia that has yet to be written. 


Asia has been part of the global satellite communications scene since the 1960s, when 
Intelsat parked its second satellite over the Pacific Ocean. However, the major distin- 
guishing feature of satellite communications in the region has been the way in which it 
has accelerated from a scarce resource to one of abundance. Between 1966 and 1996, the 
number of satellites serving Asia has increased from one to forty-six.-'" It is too early to pro- 
nounce what effect they have had, although it can be suggested that whatever the out- 
come, their impact will be profound and more pronounced at the domestic than the inter- 
national level. 

It can also be suggested that all technologies have a contradictory potential"; they do 
not behave in the way they are expected to act. For example, it is now clear that the new 
communications technologies, including satellites, have not killed off the newspaper as 
was predicted. On the contrary, the press in Asia is booming, especially at the regional 
level, in the local vernaculars. Two examples will suffice. In India, the local vernacular 
press has mobilized the new technologies to its own advantages and expanded dramati- 
cally.''* In Surabaya, East Java, the Jawa Pos hdis increased its circulation from approximately 
50,000 to more than 350,000 in five years. It is a dedicated exponent of using modern 
communications technology in production. "^^ So much for the forces of homogenization 
and standardization supposedly inherent in the technology! 

56. "Regional Satellites," AsiaPadfic Satellite 1 (March 1995): 18-23. 

57. Daniel Drache, "Introduction," in Harold A. Innis, ed.. Staples, Markets, and Cultural Change: Selected 
Essays (Kingston, Ont.: McGill/Queen's University Press, 1995), pp. xii-lix. 

58. Hamish McDonald, "Paper Tigers," Far Eastern Economic Revieiu 158 (1995): 24—26, esp. 26. 

59. See note 3. The Jawa Pos employs thirty-eight journalists in Surabaya to produce a major regional 
newspaper. To achieve impressive results, the paper has invested heavily in modern technology, including rent- 
ing a transponder to commimicate between Jakarta and Surabaya. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 241 

On a more cautious note, it is clear that communications satellites in Asia are still con- 
fronted by technical and cultural problems. Technically, there is the issue of orbit alloca- 
tion, which is also a geopolitical issue, as well as the problem of congestion. Economically, 
there is the problem of oversupply; forty-odd satellites with an increasing number of more 
powerful transponders is an issue to be explored in its own right. Culturally, there is the 
problem of enunciation: whose voice is to be heard? Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir 
has called for an Islamic satellite to provide services to Arabia, South Asia, and Southeast 
Asia. The most obvious question here is: Whose version of Islam will prevail? That of Iran 
or Saudi Arabia? These are essentially political problems, but problems of cultural identi- 
ty and national sovereignty remain to be resolved as well. What is suggested here is that 
the presence of communications satellites in the Asian context is highly significant, but 

In constructing a partial history of the present, one must be conscious of what is not 
said. In this context, Japan has hardly been mentioned and the role of radio ignored. 
However, in analyzing communications satellites in Asia within a historical perspective, 
this discussion has tried to suggest both a trajectory of development for satellites and a way 
of looking at the relationship between technology and culture that escapes the strictures 
of technological determinism. 

Chapter 18 

From Shortwave and Scatter to 

Satellite: Cuba's International 


by Jose Altshuler 

Early in the sixteenth century, the Spanish conquistadors perceived that the island of 
Cuba was a most important strategic outpost in the New World — one that required rapid 
and reliable communications with Spain. These communications had to be essentially by 
ship; hence, it was very slow for centuries, until the first telegraph service by submarine 
cable between Havana and Florida was established in 1867.' Long before, the Spanish 
colonial authorities had rejected the implementation of a similar project for fear that it 
would serve the cause of the island's annexation to the United States. In different histor- 
ical contexts since the 1850s to this day, Cuba's insularity and its proximity to the United 
States have strongly influenced the development of its international communications. 

By the end of Spanish rule in Cuba, in 1898, the island was linked telegraphically to 
the rest of the world by submarine cables owned by U.S., British, and French companies. 
Early in the twentieth century, some spark radio telegraph stations went into operation in 
Cuba, which already was a virtual protectorate of the United States. These spark radiotele- 
graph stations served mainly, but not exclusively, to communicate with ships sailing in the 
Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The first two of them belonged to U.S. companies, 
but in 1909, some stations owned by the Cuban state were installed.'^ They all operated on 
long waves or medium waves, following the international standard practice at the time. 

Radio broadcasting came to Cuba in 1922 and expanded rapidly on a commercial 
basis, with twenty-nine medium-wave stations operating in 1923 and sixty-one in 1933. By 
the end of 1933, moreover, the first shortwave commercial broadcasting station was 
installed. A few other low-power shortwave transmitters went into operation afterwards for 
the purpose of serving the interior of the island, but they were not effective enough, and 
most of them ceased to operate after some time. Only a few shortwave low-power broad- 
casting stations remained in operation in Cuba in the 1950s, each of which was dedicated 
to transmitting on shortwaves the ordinary commercial programs broadcast by an associ- 
ated medium-wave station serving a national audience. As for international point-to-point 
shortwave radio communications services, practically all of them were in the hands of pri- 
vate companies, the most important of which belonged to International Telephone and 
Telegraph (ITT). 

1. Thanks to the transatlantic telegraph cable link established between America and Europe in 1866, 
the Havana-Florida submarine cable made it possible for Havana and Madrid to exchange messages almost 
instantly, in comparison with the sixteen to twenty-one days taken by the courier steamships then traveling 
between Havana and the Spanish ports of Cadiz and Vigo. 

2. Jose Altshuler, "Cuba," in Asociacion Hispanoamericana de Centros de Invesdgacion y Empresas de 
Telecomunicaciones (AHCIET), Las Telecomunicadones en Hispanoamerica: pasado, presente y futuro (Madrid: 
AHCIET, 1993), pp. 73-88. 


244 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 


\«(W«M*WNm)- s 2 

XWWMl'.YWW)- f S 

Beyond the Ionosphere 245 

After the introduction of television to Cuba in 1950, the possibility of receiving "live" 
television programs from the United States came under serious consideration. Cuban 
engineers and technicians met the challenge by using an airplane flying for three to five 
hours over the sea near the island. Equipment aboard the airplane received video signals 
from television stations in Miami and retransmitted them to a station belonging to a 
Cuban television network with coverage over a large part of the country (audio signals 
were transmitted separately by cable and shortwave).' In this way, the games of Major 
League Baseball's World Series were watched by Cuban fans during 1955 and 1956. By the 
same method, scenes from a cabaret show taking place in Havana in 1955 were transmit- 
ted to Florida and broadcast live on television in the United States. 

A stable broadband communications link via tropospheric scatter, the first of its kind 
ever designed and used to transmit commercial television, was implemented in September 
1957 between Guanabo, near Havana, and Florida City. It had a designed capacity of 120 
telephone circuits, in addition to one monochrome television channel.^ The Cuban sta- 
tion belonged to ITT, and the station in the United States was the property of American 
Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T). Both companies already had associated with one 
another to set up a telephone link between Havana and Key West in 1921. The link uti- 
lized the longest and most deeply submerged submarine cables ever applied in the world 
at the time. ITT and AT&T again collaborated in 1950 to link the same locations by the 
first deepHsea telephone cables with submerged repeaters.'* 

Shortwave Radio Development in Cuba After 1959 

After the downfall of the dictatorship that had been in power in Cuba during the pre- 
vious years, a popular government was established early in 1959. The avowed purpose of 
the new regime was to accomplish deep social, economic, and political changes in the 
interest of the country in general and of the needy in particular. As the events that followed 
led to more and more radical measures that affected important corporate interests, both 
national and transnational, the new Cuban government realized that the country must 
have, as soon as possible, its own means of international shortwave radio communications, 
including broadcasting. This measure was seen as an important way to avoid complete 
informational isolation by powerful unfriendly interests, especially in the case of a foreign 
military attack. Such a point of view was akin to the one prevailing at the close of World 
War I among high-ranking U.S. government officials, who believed that "foreign ownership 
of any part of American telecommunications would prove dangerous in any future war."® 

3. Enrique Valdes Pages, "La Serie Mundial por T.V. en Cuba," Ingenieria Electrica 1(1) (1957): 15-18. 

4. Maurice Deloraine, Des ondes et des hommes: Jeunesse des Telecommunications et de ITTr (Paris: 
Flammarion, 1974), pp. 70-71; "El Enlace Radioelectrico por Difusion Troposferica entre Cuba y 
Norteamerica," /ngimi>r7'a£^rtnca .S(l) (1959): 15-19. 

5. These were two cables (213 and 232 kilometers long) laid between Havana and Key West with three 
flexible repeaters each, working at a maximum depth of approximately 1,900 meters. They were actually put to 
work as a prototype for a similar transaUantic telephone link inaugurated a few years later in early 1957, which 
could carry thirty-six telephone channels. Archie Clow, "First Transatlantic Telephone Cable," Science News 44 
(1957): 59-68. Each one of the Havana-Key West cables was used to transmit, simultaneously in one direction, 
twenty-three telephone channels and twelve voice-frequency telegraph channels. 

6. According to Robert Sobel, /7T; The Management of Opportunity (New York: New York Times Book Co., 
1982), pp. 34-35, this was the belief of Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt. While President Wilson 
feared that the British might develop "a veritable monopoly in the transmission of intelligence throughout the world," 
Admiral William Bullard urged a small group of businesspeople "to retain in American hands the complete control 
of radio communication, not only in the United States, but in Central and South America as well, [thus outlining] a 
policy of wireless doctrine not unlike that of [the] greater Monroe Doctrine," as reported by Gen. J.G. Harbord, 
"Radio in the World War and the Organization of an American-owned Transoceanic Radio Service," in Anton de Haas, 
ed., The Radio Industry: The Story of its Development (Chicago and New York: A.W. Shaw, 1928) , pp. 67-96. 

246 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Not too long afterward, a shortwave transmitting radio station was designed by the 
Cuban Ministry of Communications. It included a 100-kilowatt Swiss-made broadcast 
transmitter, as well as a twenty- to thirty-kilowatt German-made point-to-point communi- 
cations transmitter, complemented by a British-equipped receiving station. The transmit- 
ting station was built near Havana in record time and was operative a few weeks before the 
middle of April 1961, when Cuban airports were subjected to enemy bombing in prepa- 
ration for the Bay of Pigs invasion, which took place immediately afterwards. The short- 
wave station was used quite successfully to counteract hostile propaganda and to 
announce the defeat of the invaders, thus contradicting the totally different picture 
reported by international press agencies. 

Direct shortwave radio communications circuits were established for the first time 
during the 1960s by the Ministry of Communications to support telegraph, telephone, 
facsimile, and telex international services with Prague, Moscow, Mexico City, Berlin, Paris, 
Algiers, Shanghai, and other distant places. Radio communications services with the 
United States continued to be handled by the older companies, as were communications 
with the United States via the Guanabo-Florida City scatter link. Prensa Latina, the Cuban 
international press agency, developed its own facilities utilizing Chinese and U.S. trans- 
mitting and receiving equipment, and the agency established shortwave press circuits with 
its offices in several countries. 

The country's new interest in the development of shortwave radio communications 
required adequate training of technical personnel on the characteristics of the ionos- 
pheric propagation of radio signals. Pertinent training material was prepared in the early 
1960s, first by the Ministry of Communications and afterwards by the University of 
Havana, for courses taken there by electrical engineering students. A program of ionos- 
pheric research also started at the Institute of Geophysics of the Cuban Academy of 
Sciences, backed by important scientific research institutes of the Soviet Union. 

After a decade of operation and progressive expansion of shortwave radio services in 
Cuba, however, it became clear that additional measures would have to be taken to meet 
the demands of growing traffic. In addition, the prospect of getting rid of the vagaries of 
the ionosphere as a transmitting medium, which was incapable of accommodating broad- 
band channels, made the idea of setting up a ground station for international communi- 
cations via satellite seem exceedingly attractive. 

The Beginning of Satellite Communications in Cuba 

Less than three weeks after the launch of the Intelsat Early Bird geostationary satel- 
lite on 6 April 1965, which established broadband transoceanic communication between 
North America and Europe, the Soviet Union put into orbit its first communications satel- 
lite, Molniya 1. Its orbit was a very elongated ellipse, strongly inclined with respect to the 
equator and with its apogee above the Northern Hemisphere, so that it spent most of the 
time over the territory of the former Soviet Union. Suitable tracking of the satellite by 
ground stations made it possible to set up an experimental link between Moscow and 
Vladivostok lasting eight to ten hours. 

In November 1965, representatives of the Cuban government attended a meeting in 
Moscow, whose purpose was to discuss a Soviet proposal to use its launch facilities and 
basic know-how to implement a comprehensive program of scientific cooperation among 
socialist countries "for the peaceful study and use of outer space." This was to be known 
later as the Intercosmos Program.' Following subsequent discussions held just a few weeks 

7. Jose Altshuler and Kiril Serafimov, La hora del espacio (Havana: Editorial CienuTico-Tecnica, 1991), 
pp. 255-84. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 247 

after the Soviet Union placed a second Molniya 1 satellite into orbit, it became quite clear 
that an international communications system based on a few essentially similar satellites 
could be used to establish a permanent communications link between Cuba and Eastern 
Europe. "In comparison with shortwave links," remarked Soviet Minister of 
Communications N.D. Psurtsev, "such a system would be acceptable and not too expen- 
sive, and under extraordinary conditions it might come to provide the only possible 
transmission channel."*' Needless to say, the October 1962 missile crisis had made it dra- 
matically clear to all how important it was for Cuba to have reliable long-distance com- 
munications facilities under certain "extraordinary conditions," quite apart from the 
convenience that a satellite link offered to establish broadband channels capable of trans- 
mitting color television programs and other kinds of information. 

At the time, however, space research was far from being regarded as a priority at all 
for the newly founded national research institutions, and only the Cuban Ministry of 
Communications took the initiative to fully support the country's participation in the 
Intercosmos Program. Accordingly, when the Cuban government created a national 
agency for the coordination of the peaceful study and use of outer space in 1966, to facil- 
itate the country's participation in the Intercosmos Program, the agency was placed under 
the patronage of the Ministry of Communications. This activity spurred the country's early 
introduction to space research, which was to reach its highest point when some twenty 
experiments prepared by Cuban scientists, in the framework of the Intercosmos Program, 
were performed in space during the flight of a Cuban cosmonaut in September 1980.^ 

Still, the main interest of the Ministry of Communications was to establish a broad- 
band communications link via satellite between Cuba and other countries, especially 
those with which it was closely associated at the time. That possibility came within reach 
by the end of 1971, when work in the area of space communications, again within the con- 
text of Intercosmos, led to the creation of Intersputnik, an intergovernmental organiza- 
tion intended to meet the need for long-distance telephone and telegraph circuits, as well 
as exchanges of radio and television programs, among different countries through the use 
of communications satellites.'" 

A bilateral agreement between the Cuban and Soviet Ministries of Communications 
soon materialized, and construction of an Intersputnik receiving and transmitting ground 
station began in Cuba. This station was essentially similar to standard ones used in the Soviet 
Orbita communications system that utilized the Molniya 1 satellites. Construction of the so- 
called Caribe ground station began in February 1972. It was able to receive live from 
Moscow the first color television programs on 7 November 1973. On 1 January 1974, live 
images of the celebration then taking place in Havana were transmitted to Moscow, and they 
were retransmitted from there to other European countries via the Intervidenie system. 

The Caribe station, provided with a twelve-meter-diameter tracking parabolic anten- 
na, was erected in a valley near the town of Jaruco, approximately forty kilometers east of 
Havana. It was designed to work with Intersputnik satellites, which were initially of the 
Molniya 2 type." The station operated around four and six gigahertz and was capable of 

8. Roberto Diaz Martin, "Genesis de las comunicaciones espaciales en Cuba," Orbita 6 (1984): 32-40. 

9. Jose Altshuler, "Space Activities in Cuba," in the proceedings of the Study Week on the Impact of 
Space Exploration on Mankind, 1-5 October 1984, Vatican City, 1986, pp. 207-17. The patronage of the Cuban 
space commission was handed over to the Academy of Sciences in 1974. 

10. Ralph Chipman, ed., The Wmid in Space (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982), pp. 584-86. 

1 1 . The Molniya 2 satellites were put into a very elongated elliptic orbit, inclined about sixty-five degrees 
with respect to the equator, with its apogee 40,000 kilometers above the Northern Hemisphere and its perigee 
500 kilometers above the Southern Hemisphere, making a complete revolution around the Earth in about twelve 
hours. Three satellites simultaneously in orbit were used to obtain around-the-clock service. Actually, the 
Molniya 2 was an improved version of the Molniya 1 type suitable for international use. Its working frequencies 
were about 900 megahertz. It continued to be used for a long time for regional coverage. 

248 The Unfolding of the World S\stem: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

simultaneously handling one television channel and sixty telephone channels. This system 
was used to communicate with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and, through them, 
also with France, Italy, and Spain. 

However, broadband communications with countries in Latin America, Western 
Europe, and other important regions of the world through Intersputnik was difficult. The 
system had limited coverage. This fact became an obvious hindrance when Havana was 
chosen by the nonaligned countries as the site of their sixth summit, which took place in 
September 1979. As a palliative for the occasion, a Standard B Intelsat ground station was 
installed close to the original Caribe station. 

During the early 1980s, Intersputnik shifted from Molniya to Statsionar geostationary 
communications satellites, which the organization leased from the Soviet Union. These 
satellites operated in the same frequency bands as the old Molniyas (six gigahertz uplink, 
four gigahertz downlink), but their transmission capacity was much greater. One of them 
was placed at longitude 53° E (Indian Ocean), and the other was at longitude 14° W 
(Atiantic Ocean), ''^ which gave Cuba the possibility of delivering television programs to 
large regions abroad, especially in Africa, beginning in 1986. 

In the meantime, telecommunications between Cuba and the United States contin- 
ued to depend basically on the use of submarine cables and tropospheric scatter tech- 
nologies. When the deterioration of the old Cuba-Florida cables made their operation too 
troublesome and costly, they were replaced in November 1989 by one with submerged 
repeaters between West Palm Beach and Cojimar, a small town approximately ten kilo- 
meters east of Havana." However, the newly laid cable, which was capable of carrying 
144 telephone circuits, remained idle for a long time. No mutually satisfactory business 
agreement could be reached under the pressure of the embargo conditions imposed by 
the U.S. government on Cuba. As a result, only the eighty-nine telephone circuits provid- 
ed by the deteriorated tropospheric scatter system were available for direct communica- 
tions between the two countries. Furthermore, even those circuits disappeared suddenly 
in August 1992, when Hurricane Andrew seriously damaged the Florida City station, and 
its owner, AT&T, subsequently decided to abstain from repairing it. 

The Current Situation 

The current tense relations between the United States and Cuba have made bilateral 
negotiations on the replacement of the old telecommunications links stagnate for more 
than two years. Nonetheless, despite the political situation, an agreement was reached to 
operate future links on an equitable basis from an economic point of view.'* In November 
1994, telephone and other telecommunications services were restored in part through the 
AT&T-owned Cojimar-West Palm Beach submarine cable, but mostly by Intelsat commu- 
nications satellites, and this continues to be the case to this day.'* 

12. Chipman, The World in Space, p. 585. 

13. Apparently, this cable came from a suitable recovered length of a submarine telephone cable laid in 
the late 1960s across the Atlantic Ocean. All of the Cuba-Florida telephone cables belonged to the Cuban- 
American Telephone & Telegraph Company, jointly owned equally by ITT and AT&T. In the early 1990s, AT&T 
bought out ITT and became the company's sole owner. 

14. The Torricelli bill, approved in 1992 by the U.S. Congress, authorized payment to Cuba of its share 
in the telecommunications business established with the United States. 

15. A Standard A Intelsat unit had been added to the Caribe ground station in 1991, to be able to effect 
an efficient television transmission for Intelsat users of the eleventh Pan-American Games, which took place that 
year in Cuba. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 249 

Meanwhile, Cuba's information exchanges with the rest of the world also have contin- 
ued to expand using both the Intersputnik and the Intelsat satellite systems. The current 
international context is quite different from that which existed when the Caribe ground 
station was inaugurated more than twenty years ago. From today's perspective, the Caribe 
station can be viewed as a working monument to the best that the space age can offer to a 
small island nation struggling to develop under arduous and daunting circumstances. 

Chapter 19 

The Recent History of Satellite 
Communications in Cuba 

by Roberto Diaz-Martin 

This chapter discusses the development of satellite communications in Cuba — begin- 
ning with the first ground station, named Caribe 1, which was installed because of Cuba's 
early participation in the Intercosmos Program' — up to the present day. Satellite commu- 
nications in Cuba can be said to have begun in 1965.^ In that year, the Soviet Union invit- 
ed several countries to attend a meeting held in Moscow between 15 and 20 November 
1965 to address "space research and the peaceful uses of outer space." At this conference, 
participating countries were invited to join a new "Collaborative Program for Research 
and Peaceful Uses of the Outer Space." The program proposed to extend to collaborat- 
ing countries the satellite communications know-how and facilities already available in the 
Soviet Union. At this meeting, the Soviet minister of communications offered to provide 
reliable direct communications between Cuba and the European continent, using the 
existing operational Molniya communications satellite system. Subsequently, Cuba joined 
another new program known later as Intercosmos, as well as its successor organization, 
called Intersputnik. 

Within a relatively short time period, the Caribe 1 ground station was erected in 1974, 
in the town of Jaruco near Havana, so that Cuba could participate in these satellite com- 
munications programs initiated by the Soviet Union. The site selected for the ground 
station was perfect from a geographical point of view: a small valley surrounded by hills 
protected the station from undesirable city noise and from electromagnetic interference. 
The Caribe station was Cuba's crucial link to the Intersputnik satellite system. 

An intergovernmental agreement established Intersputnik on 15 November 1971, 
and the signatory nations confirmed the agreement on 12 July 1972. Cuba has been an 
Intersputnik member nation since the organization's beginning. The Caribe ground sta- 
tion, completed in 1974, became only the second such station outside the territory of the 
Soviet Union. The Intersputnik system utilized three Molniya 1-class satellites in elliptical 
orbits. The station's initial capacity was one television channel and twenty-four analog tele- 
phone circuits (expanded later to sixty). In 1978, the Intersputnik system switched to geo- 
stationary satellites of the Horizont, and later Statsionar, series. This change eliminated 
interruptions caused by the need to switch from one satellite to another so as to maintain 
a continuous communications link. 

1. Jose Altshuler, "El primer sputnik, un cuarto de siglo despues," Orbita 1(1) (1983): 1-20; Secretary 
of UNISPACE '82, Cooperadon intergubemamental multilateral en las actividades espaciales: Documento de antecedentes, 
U.N. document A/CONF. 101 /BP/ 10 (New York: United Nations, 1981). 

2. Roberto Diaz Martin, "Las comunicaciones espaciales en rapido desarroUo," Orbita 2(1) (1984): 
32-40; R. Diaz Martin, "Genesis de las comunicaciones espaciales en Cuba," Orbita 6( 1 ) ( 1986) : 7-15; Pedro Luis 
Torres, "Informe de la Conferencia de Moscu sobre la investigacion y utilizacion del espacio cosmico con fines 
pacificos," 1965, conference paper, personal communication. 


252 The Unfolding of the World System: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Figure 32 

The Caribe satellite communications ground station near Havana, Cuba, equipped fa)- working with both Intersputnik and 
Intelsat satellites. (Courtesy of Jose Altshuler) 

The first television program received by the station, and rebroadcast nationwide later 
because of the time difference between Europe and Cuba, was the Moscow commemora- 
tive parade of 7 November 1974. Some weeks later, the Havana commemorative parade of 
1 January 1975 was transmitted to Europe from Havana. The Cuban public also enjoyed 
the television transmission of the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976. To exchange televi- 
sion programs among Cuba, the Soviet Union, and other socialist countries, it was neces- 
sary to overcome the handicap of different television broadcast standards. The television 
standard used in Cuba was NTSC, while the Soviet Union and the majority of Eastern 
European countries used SECAM. This difficulty was resolved in 1975 through the use of 
camera tubes that carried out the conversion optically. Later, an electronic standard con- 
verter replaced this analog system. 

Selection of a Color Television Standard 

One of the key factors affecting the operation of satellite communications in Cuba 
was the selection of a standard for color television broadcasts. The availability of regular 
color television programming through the Caribe station encouraged the introduction of 
color television broadcasting, which was not generally available at the time because of the 
lack of a single television standard. A large number of NTSC black-and-white television 
receivers were in use throughout Cuba. However, the color television receivers available 
from Eastern Europe were all SECAM receivers. Financial support to replace all the NTSC 
black-and-white receivers with NTSC color sets was not available. Moreover, complicating 
the switch from NTSC to SECAM was the difference in electrical power standards. The 
Cuban electrical power system universally supplied 110 volts at sixty hertz, while SECAM 
receivers required 220 volts at fifty hertz, the European standard. Voltage differences 
aside, adopting the SECAM standard would cause screen images to flicker, because of 
SECAM's fifty-hertz time base. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 253 

Color television arrived in Cuba in 1958. Havana's Channel 12 aired in color using 
some RCA telemovie equipment capable of processing color television images. After 1959, 
however, Channel 12 no longer broadcast color programming. Many years later, once the 
Caribe station began operation, the technical staff of the Cuban Institute of Radio and 
Television began to reactivate the old Channel 12 color television equipment and to 
redesign and adapt new SECAM studio equipment obtained from the Soviet Union. These 
efforts demonstrated the possibility of transmitting in color using the NTSC standard 
through the existing broadcasting network. Other tests were carried out with the SECAM 
color standard with acceptable results. 

Selection of a color standard for Cuba was conditioned not only by technical factors, but 
also by economical, social, and political ones. The final government decision reached at the 
end of 1974 was to stick to the national color television standard (the NTSC standard). This 
was the standard used by most countries in the Caribbean geographical area. Using a dif- 
ferent standard would isolate Cuba from its neighbors. Once the government made this 
decision, the country rapidly acquired color remote control equipment from NEC in Japan, 
while existing Soviet equipment was duly modified for color transmission. The first standard 
color transmission in Cuba via the Caribe ground station took place in 1975. 

Cuba Joins Intelsat and the Global News Network 

In 1979, the Sixth Summit of Nonaligned Countries took place in Cuba. The summit 
required coverage of all the communications needs of the member countries, including 
worldwide telephone and television services. Most of the participating countries were 
located geographically around the Pacific, Indian, and South Atlantic Oceans — areas not 
completely covered by Intersputnik. Yet, Intersputnik was Cuba's communications satellite 
system. As a result, Cuba had to find an appropriate technical solution that would permit 
it to offer telecommunications services to countries outside the Intersputnik footprint. 
One proposal was to install additional equipment in Algeria, in the Sahara Desert, to 
retransmit to areas around the Indian, South Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans. This proposal 
was discarded in favor of installing a new "Standard B" Intelsat ground station in Cuba. 
Thus, in 1979, in a record time of three months, Cuba became an Intelsat user. The new 
ground station had twenty-four telephone circuits and one television channel. It provided 
communications services satisfactorily during the Summit of Nonaligned Countries, 
thanks to the joint operation of both the Intersputnik and Intelsat stations. 

Because of satellite communications, Cuba was able to participate early on in the 
international exchange of television news. In 1977, supported by the International 
Organization for Radio and Television, Cuba entered into television news exchanges with 
the Intervision Network, televised from the network's center in Prague. Every day at 3:00 
p.m. European Central Time, the broadcast exchange took place during approximately 
one hour. A leased common audio channel provided simultaneous sound programming 
to audiences scattered around the globe, from Managua, Nicaragua, to Ulan Bator, 
Mongolia, and Hanoi, Vietnam. The Intervision Network continued to broadcast until the 
disappearance of the International Organization for Radio and Television, when 
Eurovision and EUTELSAT picked up the service. All participants shared in the expenses 
of this service. 

Cuba's satellite communications capability also benefited groups of interested users 
located in Europe and other regions of the world. For this purpose, Cubavision was pro- 
duced and transmitted regularly through a leased transponder on a Statsionar satellite. 
The program included news from Cuba, as well as entertainment material. 

254 The Unfolding of the World S\stem: Geography, Politics, and Culture 

Space Communications Research and Special Services 

Cuba participated in the International Space Communications Work Group of the 
Intercosmos Program. Within its framework, the Cubans conducted research to study 
radio propagation in the tropics in the ten- to thirty-gigahertz frequency range. Existing 
data from radio telescopes, which had conducted geophysical studies of the Sun's impact 
on the Earth's ionosphere, were compiled and analyzed. Cuban researchers conducted 
additional studies using equipment obtained through, and with the backing of, the 
Intercosmos Program. 

Beginning in 1981, Cuba launched a project to develop the Central National Science 
and Technology Library. The objective of the library, inaugurated in June 1988 in the 
Capitol Building, was to promote the expansion of information services to the entire 
country. As part of the library project, Cuba instituted national and international net- 
works to provide computer-assisted exchanges of information services. The Caribe ground 
station provided these networks v^th communications support.^ 

As an island nation, Cuba has a close relationship with the sea. Political and econom- 
ic reasons have pushed Cuba to broaden its merchant and fishing fleet. Cuban vessels now 
cover large distances to maintain the country's needs. For this reason, maritime commu- 
nications, especially maritime satellite communications, has taken on greater interest and 
importance. Therefore, on 27 July 1989, Cuba joined Inmarsat to modernize its maritime 
communications capabilities. 


The Caribe ground station has been the subject of continuous technical improve- 
ment. The Intersputnik system featured time division multiple access and a single carrier 
per channel — features that made it compatible with the Intelsat system. The Intelsat B 
ground station increased its telephone capacity to eighty circuits, and the Intersputnik sta- 
tion expanded to 144 telephone circuits. However, to meet the needs of the constantiy 
growing numbers of foreign visitors, businesspeople, and tourists, Cuba had to enlarge its 
telephone and data communications facilities even more. 

Consequently, a new Standard A Intelsat station, named Caribe 2, became operational 
in 1991. This new ground station, equipped with the latest digital technology, provided 
the necessary capacity to cover present and future island needs. This station satisfactorily 
covered the eleventh Caribbean and Pan-American Games. In addition, small-capacity 
ground stations were installed in outlying areas to serve the needs of remote zones and 
the small islands of the Cuban archipelago. 

3. R. Diaz MarU'n, "Actividades Espaciales en Cuba, Diseminacion de la informacion via satelites," 
paper read at Taller de Naciones Unidas sobre Sistemas Regionales de Informacion Espacial, Lima, Peru, 24-28 
October 1988, copy in United Nations library. 

Part III: 

The Unfolding of the World System 


Chapter 20 

Project SHARE and the Development 
of Global Satellite Communications 

by Joseph N. Pelton 

The past is often prologue, and the history of satellite communications is no excep- 
tion. The two earliest practical concepts of satellite communication were offered by 
Hermann Noordung, the Polish writer who used the pen name Potocnik, and Arthur C. 
Clarke. In articles published during the 1930s and 1940s, they formed the first specific 
image of what a communications satellite might be and what it might do. Certainly oth- 
ers, such as H.G. Wells, Everett Edward Hale, and Jules Verne proposed earlier concepts 
in fanciful fiction, but Noordung and Clarke had specific ideas based on scientific and 
even quasi-engineering principles. These first "practical" views included the idea of geo- 
synchronous orbit, the use of radio-relay technology, and the belief that these space sta- 
tions would be large, manned contrivances that would have on-board personnel replacing 
radio tubes and repairing electronic equipment. 

The subsequent invention of the transistor, reliable solid-state circuitry, and high- 
speed computers served to alter the ultimate reality of communications satellites that 
materialized during the late 1950s and early 1960s. These technological breakthroughs 
allowed satellites to be smaller, cheaper, more reliable, and, most critically, unmanned 
remote-controlled versions of those proposed by Noordung and Clarke. The initial con- 
cept that these communications satellites essentially would be radio broadcast towers in 
the sky endured, however. Clarke's earliest vision, in fact, was a very convenient one for 
telecommunications carriers and broadcasters. These entities, which frequently were 
monopolies with huge investments in terrestrial networks, very much wanted communi- 
cations satellites to becom.e an adjunct or extension of their large and expensive 
terrestrial swdtching systems. At the dawn of the age of space communications, telecom- 
munications moved through the key hubs of Paris, London, New York, and a few other key 
urban centers of the world, such as Tokyo and Rome. Thus, the early history of satellite 
communications was a story of the technical triumph of electronic and rocketry technol- 
ogy, as well as a political struggle to retain a global hierarchy for the dominant communi- 
cations carriers of the day. 

There was nothing sinister or even conspiratorial about this situation. The concen- 
tration of traffic through hierarchical switches for many decades was considered the 
ultimate network strategy. Suddenly, the network architecture dictated by wire and terres- 
trial switches was confronted with a new option — that of the communications satellite. 
The satellite did not depend on physical wire connection, but rather wireless links 
through free space. Network planners, however, saw satellites as long-distance trunk lines 
that simply augmented the terrestrial telecommunications network. Because the first 
ground stations were of necessity large, expensive, labor-intensive operations ($10 million 
each and staffed by forty people operating over a twenty-four-hour shift) , the number of 
points where satellites and wire networks could link together were small in number. Even 
so, the new communications satellites immediately began to make a difference. 
Developing countries could build a national ground station to link via satellite not with 


258 The Unfolding of the World S\stem: Applications 

one or two major world centers, but with dozens of places. Chile could call Colombia or 
Brazil directly without going through New York. Nigeria could contact Ghana or Senegal 
without going through London or Paris. 

Thus, by 1969, satellite communications, which began in large part with Intelsat's 
launch of Early Bird in 1965, had affected the form and structure of global telecommu- 
nications in a decisive manner. Chile, for instance, was the first country to initiate direct 
satellite communications in South America. Santiago Astrain, Intelsat's first director 
general, was the head of Entel Chile during the middle to late 1960s. For an investment 
equivalent to the purchase of a Boeing 707 jetliner, his country could enjoy global com- 
munications. Suddenly, we could connect directly with a growing family of nations, rather 
than transit through a handful of major powers. 

The existence of national telecommunications monopolies and the high cost of large, 
high-gain ground stations, however, served to limit this "satellite revolution." Comsat's 
chief scientist, Sid Metzger, who then headed the team responsible for the technical 
design characteristics of Intelsat's ground stations, conducted a number of ongoing sys- 
tems studies, which showed that the best "balance" of capital investment between Intelsat 
satellites and ground stations strongly favored the big and expensive thirty-meter Intelsat 
"A" stations. The key assumptions of these studies (which were indeed quite valid at the 
time) included the following: 

• The power of satellites will be largely limited, and greatly increasing their power will 
be quite expensive. 

• Ground stations generally will be international gateways, and most countries will have 
no more than one or two. 

• To the extent that the Intelsat system must have smaller, low-gain antennas for special 
reasons, such as in the case of a shipborne antenna to support a manned space mis- 
sion, the satellite access charge should have a rate adjustment factor to charge much 
more for access. 

This type of design engineering and charging policy remained in place through the 
1960s, but as the next decade approached, the new and dramatically more powerful 
Intelsat IV satellite was being built by the Hughes Aircraft Company. This satellite, with 
about sixteen times more capacity than the Early Bird satellite, permitted new approach- 
es to satellite communication. In an unusual move, Comsat organized a special study 
team, called the Intelsat IV Charging Policy group, within its system manager's organiza- 
tion. Instead of being an engineer, the head of this group was the director of the firm's 
International Division, John A. Johnson, who also chaired the Intelsat Interim 
Communications Satellite Committee, whose eighteen members from around the world 
decided overall management policy. That group recommended a new policy: a new fami- 
ly of ground stations of different sizes and greatiy reduced rate adjustment factors for 
smaller, cheaper stations. The new policy envisioned the use of satellites for regional, 
national, and international communications services, as well as services to smaller termi- 
nals in rural and remote regions. Experiments supported by NASA and Canada through 
their joint Communications Technology Satellite program in such locations as the 
Brazilian Amazon supported the technical feasibility of such a concept.' 

L It was the author's first important assignment at Comsat to head the Intelsat IV Charging Policy 
study in 1970, with a team of eight members drawn from the procurement, finance, legal, technical, operations, 
and international divisions of Comsat. 

Beyond the Ionosphere 259 

The recommendations of the Intelsat IV Charging Policy group report were quite 
controversial. Some recommendations involving the use of excess Intelsat capacity for 
domestic communications had to wait approximately two years for Algeria to formally 
request this service from the Intelsat Interim Communications Satellite Committee in 
1973. As it turned out, the United States also directly benefited from this policy. The com- 
mittee decided that traffic between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii and Alaska could be 
considered under bulk lease for "domestic service." 

As the "decentralization" of the satellite network went forward with the approval of 
the Intelsat Interim Communications Satellite Committee in 1971, during the following 
years Intelsat designed and built bigger and more powerful satellites, authorized smaller 
and smaller ground stations, and offered a full range of national, regional, and interna- 
tional communications services. Still, there was a feeling that much more could be done. 
By the early 1980s, Intelsat began to define a new type of international service that could 
use the Intelsat V and V-A satellites to go directly to customer premises. This became the 
Intelsat Business Service. Intelsat even defined a service for rural and remote services 
known as VISTA, as well as a microterminal-based service for medium-rate data called 
Internet, which could operate via a sixty-five-centimeter "desktop" dish about the size of a 
pizza pan. 

This burst of new services occurred in close parallel with the 1983-1984 announce- 
ment of plans for competitive services. Critics claimed that Intelsat needed competition to 
develop and deliver new and innovative services. The fact that Intelsat's twentieth birthday 
was coming up on 20 August 1984 suggested to a number of people that Intelsat should do 
something particularly noteworthy and innovative to mark that upcoming anniversary. 

The Beginnings of Project SHARE 

This author was named the Intelsat director of strategic policy in 1983 and, in that 
capacity, proposed an activity to promote access to educational and health services in 
rural and remote areas via satellite. Because Intelsat did have spare satellite capacity for 
emergency restoration, it was possible to think of offering the space segment for free on 
the understanding that any such free demonstrations would be preempted in the case of 
a failure of regular commercial service. 

It was not easy to convert a vague idea into a clear specific proposal acceptable to 
Intelsat management, Intelsat signatories from around the world, and the Intelsat Board 
of Governors. This Board of Governors replaced the old Intelsat Interim Communications 
Satellite Committee in 1974 under the newly negotiated Intelsat Definitive Agreements. It 
required a lot of hard work and a lot of cooperation among a number of people to make 
this vague idea truly workable. Marcel Perras of Canada, who was a former board chair- 
man and at that time Intelsat's director of business planning, came up with the name: 
Project SHARE. SHARE was the acronym for Satellites for Health and Rural Education in 
English, but Intelsat operated with three written languages: English, Spanish, and French. 
Those involved could not get the same acronym or meaning to work in the other two lan- 
guages. Finally it was simply decided that the name would have to be Project SHARE in 
English, Projet SHARE in French, and Proyecto SHARE in Spanish. After test-marketing 
the idea, it turned out that the English word "share" was rather universally understood 
around the world. 

The advantages to Intelsat of making free satellite capacity available to test rural and 
remote health and educational services were not hard to understand. These were poten- 
tial new markets. The extension of ground stations into more remote territories 


The Unfolding of the World System: Applications 

Figure 33 

Project SHARE envisioned making free Intelsat satellite capacity available to furnish health and educational services to rural 
and remote regions. The use of satellites to link remote peoples appeared much earlier, however, as this NASA drawing dating 
from the early 1960s illustrates. (Courtesy of NASA) 

expanded the ever-increasing interconnectivity of the Intelsat system. The capacity was not 
being used for other purposes. Most importantly, it was a very good and exciting thing to do. 

The twentieth anniversary celebration took on an important substantive dimension 
that went beyond throwing a big party. The rest of the world could celebrate also. The 
Intelsat signatories around the world had a somewhat different perspective. They needed 
to make available ground station equipment and terrestrial telecommunications systems 
to make the tests and demonstrations work. How would they be able to pick and choose? 
How much additional effort would this require? Would it interfere with paying commer- 
cial customers? If they allowed free service to start, how could they gracefully end the 
service when the tests ended? 

Here, the Intelsat Board of Governors and the individual signatories were extremely 
helpful in working out a detailed procedure that limited requests in terms of scope and 
duration and that eliminated trivial or frivolous proposals. As a result. Project SHARE 
activities were meaningful, focused, and oriented toward participants who had a serious 
interest and intent to implement a test program. It took months of drafting and coordi- 

Beyond the Ionosphere 261 

nating these procedures for final approval by the Board of Governors, but eventually the 
formal authorization was in place. 

Another serious problem, however, had to be addressed. Intelsat knew much about 
satellite communications, but very little about rural education or health care. Again, will- 
ing help was found in the international community. Intelsat approached the International 
Institute of Communications, headquartered in London, for help. This nonprofit organi- 
zation, with a global span of academic, professional, and industrial members, agreed to 
help form an international advisory board to assist in assessing incoming proposals and 
even to help generate proposals from relevant global organizations, such as the Pan- 
American Health Organization, the World Health Organization, and the open university 
systems around the world. This advisory committee proved invaluable to the planning, 
implementation, and evaluation of ongoing Project SHARE activities. 

After much hard work, the Board of Governors gave its approval, the application 
forms were printed, the Intelsat signatories' ground rules for participation were in place, 
and the stage was set for the launch of the program. Something special in terms of pub- 
licity and fanfare seemed appropriate. So, those involved turned to Charles Schulz of 
"Peanuts" fame. Research indicated that the comic strip "Peanuts" was perhaps the most 
widely read and recognized cartoon in the world. Because education and health care for 
children were key objectives of Project SHARE, United Features and Charles Schulz were 
contacted to ascertain whether he might donate a distinctive and appealing logo — one 
that would be appealing to a broad audience rather than just scientists and engineers. In 
characteristically generous fashion, he agreed. Within a matter of weeks, we had a Project 
SHARE logo featuring Snoopy atop a doghouse, which also served as the main body of an 
Intelsat V satellite. 

The "launch" of Project SHARE subsequently occurred in August 1984 at the 
International Club in Washington, D.C., amid much fanfare. Snoopy presented an edu- 
cational degree certificate to the Intelsat's director general. As it turned out, it was a very 
hot day, and the diminutive actress inside the Snoopy costume went to her changing room 
and promptly fainted. She was quickly revived. The press in attendance gave Project 
SHARE enthusiastic support. The framework was in place, the project was announced, 
and the advisory committee was on alert, but there were no projects. The people involved 
waited patiendy for a couple of months and then began to wait impatiently. Finally, pro- 
posals were recruited on a very active basis. 

A Few Notable Projects 

The turning point came in the form of a delegation of the Post and 
Telecommunications Ministry from the People's Republic of China. They requested the 
use of an Intelsat transponder (or a full television channel) for a several-month test of a 
new National Television University. After some discussion, and a couple planning and 
coordination trips, the first major Project SHARE activity was launched with a signing cer- 
emony at Intelsat headquarters in August 1985. 

The first phase involved distribution of educational programs developed by Central 
China Television and the Ministry of Education. Initially, thirty hours of programming 
were distributed to some forty regional television receivers with a test audience of several 
thousand students and more than 100 instructors. The tests were so successful that the 
Chinese signatory requested a three-month extension, which was promptly granted. By 
the end of the second trial, China formally leased a transponder from Intelsat and began 
implementing a full-scale electronic university network across most of rural and remote 

2^ The Unfolding of the World System: Appucations 

China, as well as in many other locations. As of 1996, this network is still very much in 
operation. Approximately 90,000 terminals have been built and deployed in every part of 
China, and the number of students now exceeds 3 million. Eventually, a target of more 
than 10 million teachers and students will be served by this satellite network started under 
Project SH.\RE. This is the world's largest single educational network, and even if noth- 
ing else arose from Project SHARE, one could claim that this program alone made it 
extremely worthwhile. 

Fortunately, many other projects quickly followed. Everything started to come togeth- 
er. The advisory committee began to bring forward key projects. Signatories began to rec- 
ognize from the experience in China that Project SHARE could attract new customers and 
favorable publicity. The early successes tended to breed new opportunities and innovative 
suggestions. The case of Dr. Max House of the Memorial Hospital of Nova Scotia and the 
Canadian signatory Teleglobe Canada was a key case in point. 

In the 1970s, Max House started a highly innovative project to bring health and med- 
ical assistance to remote areas of Canada. His initial mission was to extend the treatment 
coverage of Memorial Hospital to drilling rigs off the coast of Nova Scotia. Using 
communications links. House helped assist with the broken limbs, diagnostic tests, and 
medical emergencies of workers on those remote off-shore towers. In light of this positive 
practical experience. House began to consult with hospital and clinic officials in East 
Africa and the Caribbean regarding the provision of their medical treatment needs via 
satellite links. Various suppliers of specialized medical terminal equipment and videocon- 
ferencing codecs (that is, encoders/decoders), such as Colorado Video, donated approx- 
imately $300,000 in equipment that could be used at remote medical facilities to help with 
medical testing and training. 

In parallel, officials at Teleglobe Canada and Intelsat developed plans to set up the 
satellite links. The plan was to operate the Canada-to-Kenya medical link